WASHINGTON (CN) – Republican senators complained about provisions in the New START Treaty on Friday, claiming it would dampen the United States’ ability to ramp up its missile defense capabilities. Ratifying the treaty is one of President Obama’s top legislative priorities before the end of the lame duck session.
“It is outrageous that this administration would make any concession to Russia on our national security,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wy., said on the Senate floor Friday.
The treaty, which was signed in April by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague, reduces the amount of nuclear warheads held by the United States and Russia from 2,200 to 1,550 each over the next seven years, a 30 percent reduction from current stores. In addition, they would agree to have no more than 700 deployed launchers.
The Senate may vote on the treaty on Saturday.
The treaty needs approval of two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes, to be ratified.
Senate Republicans claim the treaty contains language that would allow Russia to withdraw from the agreement if the United States ramped up its missile defense.
“Russia intends to weaken the ability of the United States to defend ourselves,” Barrasso said, adding that the preamble language regarding missile defense included Russia’s right to abandon the treaty if the United States developed its missile defense system beyond “current strategic capabilities.”
“There should be no place in a treaty with Russia to limit our ability to defend and protect our nation,” Barrasso said. “This language is unacceptable and it needs to be removed.”
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., claimed the treaty did not dampen the United States’ missile defense capabilities. “The Russians understand what this treaty means and so do we,” Kerry said, reading sections of the signed treaty.
Kerry is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that approved the treaty by a vote of 14 to 4 and brought it to the floor. “That’s the way we ought to deal with it here,” he said.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., complained that Senate only had a limited time to debate the treaty before the end of the lame duck session, which ends on Jan. 4. “The last treaty I looked at we had nine days,” DeMint said. “The process is wrong. I would appeal to my colleagues to let this go into next year.” He said the treaty still had “loopholes big enough to hide missiles.”
“A few more weeks is not going to put our country in any more jeopardy. In fact, rushing this through would be much more dangerous,” DeMint said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., argued that the treaty was “long overdue.”
Together, the U.S. and Russia possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.