US senators-elect push for START treaty delay

18th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

In a fresh blow to a landmark nuclear treaty with Russia, ten US senators-elect called in a letter Thursday for delaying a ratification vote until a new congress convenes in January.

"We call on you to defer action on this arms control treaty until the Senate reconvenes," the group, all Republican foes of the White House, urged Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Roy Blunt of Missouri led the group, which included John Boozman of Arkansas, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida.

President Barack Obama has called on the Senate to approve the the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) this year in a "lame-duck" session, but faces stiff opposition from Republicans who romped in November 2 elections.

In January, Senate Republicans will see their ranks swell from 41 to 47 members, making the road to the 67 votes needed for ratification that much rougher.

The White House said Wednesday that it would forge ahead with the accord and predicted it would rally the bare minimum eight Republicans needed to approve the agreement this year, but that outcome is far from certain.

"Proponents of this treaty, aware that today's Senate is likely to support the agreement in higher numbers without our participation, are urging the Senate to give its advice and consent in the coming weeks," wrote the group.

"Out of respect for our states' voters, we believe it would be improper for the Senate to consider the New START Treaty or any other treaty in a lame duck session prior to January 3, 2011," they wrote.

The START treaty -- signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Obama in Prague in April -- restricts each nation to a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads, a cut of about 30 percent from a limit set in 2002.

It would also return US inspectors who have been unable to monitor Russia's arsenal since the agreement's predecessor lapsed in December 2009.

© 2010 AFP

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