UPDATE: The Senate voted 67-28 to end debate on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Only 60 ayes were required and 11 Republicans broke ranks to support it. 67 votes is also incidentally the number of votes the full Senate would need to ratify the agreement, which now seems nothing short of a foregone conclusion. A final vote is expected tomorrow.
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, number three on the Republican leadership team, will support ratification of the strategic arms agreement. With the leadership split and moderates such as Scott Brown already crossed over, more GOP Senators have the latitude to back the treaty. National Review’s Rich Lowry hears it could go as high as 75 votes in favor overall. The next vote, expected around 2 p.m. ET today, is to close debate and requires 60 votes. Final ratification will need a two-thirds majority, meaning 66 votes if Ron Wyden, who is recovering from prostate surgery, is absent.
Alexander’s statement this morning on the Senate floor:
I have reviewed the plan that calls for spending $85 billion over the next ten years on nuclear modernization. I have visited our outdated nuclear weapons facilities. I am convinced that the plan’s implementation will make giant steps toward modernization of those facilities so that we – and our allies and adversaries – can be assured that the weapons will work if needed. The president’s statement that he will ask for these funds and the support of senior members of the Senate Appropriations Committee means that the plan is more likely to become a reality. This will make sure the United States is not left with a collection of wet matches.
Over the weekend the president sent a letter to the Senate reaffirming ‘the continued development and deployment of U.S. missile defense systems …’ There is nothing within the Treaty itself that would hamper the development or deployment of our missile defense. Our military and intelligence leaders all have said that. Obviously, something could happen down the road, for example, involving differences between Russia and the United States over missile-defense systems that could require either country to withdraw from the treaty. That is any sovereign country’s right with any treaty. In 2002, President George W. Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty because of our desire to pursue missile defenses to protect us from an attack by a rogue state.