Democrats have moved a step closer toward a crucial US Senate vote on a new arms control treaty with Russia, beating back Republican efforts to alter the accord and setting up a showdown with the Republican Party on US President Barack Obama’s top foreign policy priority.
The White House has made ratification of the landmark agreement an imperative in the closing days of the post-election Congress, but its hopes for the pact were complicated on Sunday as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would oppose the treaty.
“Rushing it right before Christmas strikes me as trying to jam us,” McConnell said. “I think that was not the best way to get the support of people like me.”
McConnell on CNN’s State of the Union criticized the treaty’s verification system and expressed concern that the pact would limit US missile defense options even though Obama insisted on Saturday that the treaty imposes no restrictions on the system aimed at protecting the US and its allies from ballistic missile attacks.
Undeterred by McConnell’s opposition, Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Sunday night that the Senate would vote today to end debate on the treaty and move to a final vote.
“It is time to move forward on a treaty that will help reverse nuclear proliferation and make it harder for terrorists to get their hands on a nuclear weapon,” Reid said, adding the debate “will come down to a simple choice: you either want to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, or you don’t.”
A sixth day of debate was scheduled for yesterday.
The White House and Democrats are determined to win approval of the treaty before next month, when Republicans increase their numbers in the Senate. During a rare Sunday session of the Senate, Democrats turned back a Republican amendment to change the treaty, which would have effectively killed it.