UPDATE: The Republican effort to rewrite the START treaty with Russia failed. Senators by a vote of 60-32 rejected an amendment adding language on short-range nuclear weapons. The new arms treaty with Russia deals with only long-range missiles, Democratic senators noted.
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Republican senators that vote for the new START nuclear arms treaty with Russia will have to do so against the wishes of GOP leadership.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) both said Sunday that they will oppose passage.
“I’ve decided I can not support the treaty,” McConnell told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “I think the verification provisions are inadequate. And I do worry about the missile defense implications of it.”
Republicans failed Saturday to pass an amendment that would have removed language that critics say would have inhibited missile defense.
Supporters argued that the amendment would have killed the treaty because it would have required the the US to conduct further negotiations with Russia.
The vote came after President Barack Obama sent a letter to McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) assuring them that the treaty would not hamper plans to develop missile defense.
“Regardless of Russia’s actions in this regard, as long as I am president, and as long as the Congress provides the necessary funding, the United States will continue to develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect the United States, our deployed forces, and our allies and partners,” Obama wrote.
The president’s letter did nothing to convince Kyl. “Look, tell it to the Russians. Send a letter to the Russians. In fact, change the preamble to the treaty, which would eliminate any doubt about this issue…That’s why I say talk to the Russians. Don’t send a letter to Mitch McConnell,” he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
But appearing on ABC Sunday, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) disagreed said that the language in the treaty’s preamble had no bearing on missile defense.
“There is no legal binding statement whatsoever,” Kerry said. The language in the preamble “is a sort of statement that for political purposes was necessary to achieve what we achieved.”
This video is from CNN’s State of the Union, broadcast Dec. 19, 2010.