WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden today urged the US Senate to ratify the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia before the end of the year. Biden's statement came hours after a key Republican senator said the vote should be put off.
"Failure to pass the New START Treaty this year would endanger our national security," Biden said in a statement. "Without ratification of this treaty, we will have no Americans on the ground to inspect Russia’s nuclear activities, no verification regime to track Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal, less cooperation between the two nations that account for 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, and no verified nuclear reductions."
The New START treaty, signed last April, would commit both sides to reduce strategic nuclear weapons from 2,200 warheads to 1,550, and set up a process for new inspections of each side's arsenal.
The treaty needs 67 votes in the Senate for ratification. President Obama has been pushing for a vote by the end of the year, before the new Congress is sworn in and the Democrat's advantage in the Senate shrinks from 59 seats to 53.
Earlier today, Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, considered influential among Republicans on nuclear issues, disappointed the White House by saying the Senate should not take up the treaty in the current lame duck session.
Biden said the treaty enjoys broad support from members of past administrations, from both parties, including former secretaries of state George Shultz, James Baker, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, and Warren Christopher, and former defense secretaries James Schlesinger, William Cohen, William Perry, Frank Carlucci, and Harold Brown.
"Given new START’s bipartisan support and enormous importance to our national security, the time to act is now and we will continue to seek its approval by the Senate before the end of the year," said Biden.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.