As the US Congress makes its to-do list for the last few weeks of the year, one piece of legislation that is not likely to be on it is the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as START. The White House has been pressing the Senate to ratify the treaty with Russia which would reduce both countries’ nuclear arsenals and deployment systems.
The Senate Republican tasked with negotiating with the Obama administration threw cold water on the treaty on Tuesday.
Jon Kyl put out a statement saying he didn’t think START would be considered this term, “given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernisation”. Republicans have been pressing for a multi-billion dollar modernisation of the US nuclear arsenal.
Kyl’s statement means the treaty will likely be shelved for the year.
That means next year, the ratification process will begin all over again in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before the Democratic leadership brings it back for a vote in the full Senate. That could take months.
But Vice President Joe Biden put out a statement urging the Senate to act on the treaty. He said, “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. “
The old START treaty with Russia expired nearly a year ago. The administration looks at the renewal of the treaty as a key foreign policy achievement meant to “reset” relations with Russia.
The deal was inked by Obama and his Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev in April with much fanfare in Prague.
It takes a two-thirds majority of the Senate to ratify a treaty. Right now, with all the Democrats expected to vote for for START, eight Republicans are needed to pass it.
After January 5th, when the newly elected body takes office, it will take 15 Republicans to get the treaty ratified.