US-Russia nuclear pact to pass Senate: AFP tally
A landmark nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia had enough backers Tuesday to win ratification by the US Senate, according to an AFP count.
Nine of President Barack Obama's Republican adversaries have said in recent days that they will support the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), and no Democrat has broken with the pact, giving the accord the votes to pass.
On Tuesday, Republican Senators Lamar Alexander, Johnny Isakson, and Bob Bennett said they would support the agreement in a vote set for Wednesday or Thursday, and more publicly undecided lawmakers were expected to follow soon.
Ratification requires two-thirds of senators present to back the treaty, 67 if all 100 are there, and 66 if, as expected, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden will miss the ballot in the wake of prostate cancer surgery.
Democrats control 58 votes, and therefore needed nine Republicans to break ranks with their leaders in the year-end "lame duck" legislation session to hand Obama a signal diplomatic victory.
As of Tuesday, Republican Senators Richard Lugar, Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, Alexander, George Voinovich, Scott Brown, Bob Corker, Bennett, and Isakson had publicly said they would vote for START.
"The question is not if it passes, the question is when," Corker, who played a key role in addressing his party's concerns about the treaty, told reporters.
A handful of others -- Republican Senators John McCain, Mark Kirk, Judd Gregg, and Lisa Murkowski -- were thought to be leaning towards backing the accord.
© 2010 AFP