WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate may need until 2011 to ratify a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty President Barack Obama signed with former Cold War foe Russia, the chamber's Democratic leader said Tuesday.
"I'm going to do everything I can to advance this as quickly as I can. It may take until the first of the year to get it done, but I think it's important we try to get this done," said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the top senator would bring the treaty up for a ratification vote "as quickly as possible" after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee signs off and was "confident it can be done by the end of the year."
Treaty ratification requires 67 votes, but Democrats and their two independent allies hold only 59 seats in the 100-member Senate, meaning they will need to rally at least eight Republicans.
"This is a step forward for humanity," Reid said of the new agreement. "I can't imagine — although I've been surprised in the past — I can't imagine the Republicans saying no to this."
But a political fight appeared to be brewing over the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week in Prague.
Republicans have warned that Obama must submit a comprehensive plan for upgrading U.S. nuclear laboratories and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal before the Senate takes up the treaty, and caution they will oppose the pact if they think it will hamper US missile defense plans bitterly opposed by Russia.
Top Democratic senators have said they will plan hearings on the treaty once Obama submits the full document in early May, with the aim of getting it ratified this year.
The new START cuts the number of deployed warheads by 30 percent from levels set in the last major US-Russian disarmament treaty in 2002, specifying limits of 1,550 nuclear warheads for each of the two countries.
Many of the U.S. warheads are decades old.
© AFP 2014