Senate Democrats get GOP nod in arms treaty test vote

Associated Press / December 16, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats secured the backing of a significant number of Republicans in a crucial test vote yesterday on a new US-Russia arms control treaty, one of President Obama’s top foreign policy priorities.

The 66-32 vote to take up the treaty bolstered White House and senior Democrats’ assertions that they will have the two-thirds majority needed to ratify it before Congress adjourns for the holiday, even though a majority of Republicans prefer waiting until next year.

Nine Republicans, including Senator John McCain of Arizona, Obama’s 2008 presidential rival and a top lawmaker on national security issues, supported moving ahead on the treaty now.

Scott Brown of Massachusetts also voted with the majority.

“Senator Brown believes there are still flaws in the treaty, such as the modernization of our own existing weapons, verification and missile defense, and is hopeful these issues will be worked out in a full, fair, and open debate and amendment process,’’ Brown’s office said in a statement after the vote.

Obama has said he is prepared to delay a planned holiday vacation until the treaty is completed. Democrats are determined to push the treaty through the Senate before the GOP grabs more power next year.

“We believe we should stay here as long as it takes to get this treaty ratified, and we’re prepared to do so,’’ said John Kerry, Foreign Relations Committee chairman and Democrat of Massachusetts.

Still, several Republicans, led by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, objected to considering the treaty in the waning days of Congress’s lame-duck session, insisting the Senate should delay action until it has more time.

Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said they could support the treaty but not under the current timetable.

Obama signed the treaty with President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia in April.