Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John
Kerry (D-MA) said Wednesday that he still believes the New START
nuclear reductions treaty with Russia can be ratified during the lame
duck session of Congress, despite calls from several Republican
senators for more time to consider the agreement.
"I'm very hopeful. My expectation
is that we're going to try to move to the START treaty and get the
START treaty done, because it's a matter of national security,"
Kerry said on a conference call. "I would think [December] is
likely, just given the overall schedule and the Thanksgiving break."
Kerry was calling from Israel, the last
leg of his overseas trip that included stops in Sudan, Turkey, Syria,
and Lebanon. He said he spoke Wednesday to the committee's ranking
Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN), Vice President Joseph
Biden, and that he put in a call to Senate Minority Whip Jon
Kyl (R-AZ), the key GOP leader on New START.
In remarks last week, Lugar wondered
aloud whether there would be enough time to complete work on the
treaty during the lame duck session and stated that some GOP senators
would be opposed to taking up the treaty this year. Last week, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who voted for the treay in the committee,
Cable he would prefer if the debate and
vote were delayed until the next session of Congress.
But Kerry said Lugar's only concern
was about whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would set
aside enough floor time to properly vet the treaty. "[Lugar] is
committed to doing it provided that Harry Reid is committed to
putting it on the floor and giving it the time," Kerry said. Kerry
and President Obama both have spoken to Reid about this. "[Reid]
wants to get this done," Kerry said.
Reid's spokesman Jim Manley
told The Hill, "Now that the election
is over, hopefully the White House and Senate Republicans can reach
an agreement that will allow us to ratify the treaty by the end of
Manley is referring to the package of
incentives Biden is putting together for Kyl in addition to the $80
billion the administration already pledged for nuclear modernization
and nuclear stockpile maintenance. Biden has been working the phones
with GOP senators and spoke with Kyl very recently, Kerry said.
Meanwhile, GOP fence-sitters John
McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said this week at
National Security Forum that they want to see
the New START treaty issue resolved, but they just don't know if it
"I'd like for us to resolve the
START treaty issue, whether we will or not is just not clear to me,"
McCain said, without indicating whether he wanted to resolve it by
passing it or voting it down.
Graham seemed to indicate he was for
"I certainly am leaning towards, I
definitely want a treaty because if you can reduce the number of
launch vehicles and the number of warheads and still have a nuclear
deterrent, that's a good move because it reduces your cost," he
said. "So the trade I'm looking for is with the administration,
that we'll negotiate a treaty with good numbers as long as you
modernize the force that's left... I don't know if there's
momentum for that in the lame duck or not."