Holiday Rush: Senate Advances to Final Vote on START, Plans to Take Up 9/11 Bill Before Christmas

Dec 21, 2010 5:41pm

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports: Congress is inching ever closer to that Christmas break as lawmakers continue a flurry of last-minute work before the holiday. The Senate this afternoon voted to move forward to a final vote on the START nuclear treaty with Russia. The pact overcame the Senate’s 60-vote procedural hurdle with ease, advancing by a count of 67-28. That “67″ number is key, since the pact needs the support of two-thirds of the Senate for ratification – 67 votes would get the job done. And it appears a near certainty that it will get those votes, since 11 Republicans support the treaty: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Bob Bennett of Utah, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Dick Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Olympia Snowe of Maine, and George Voinovich of Ohio. A final vote could come late Tuesday, but more likely sometime on Wednesday. “If in the end, the Senate in its wisdom ratifies this treaty, it's a victory for the country, not a victory for anybody else — a victory for the country and that's what we're looking for,” said Senate Foreign Relations chairman John Kerry. Once START is out of the way, the Senate is set to take another shot at passing a $6.2 billion measure to provide health care benefits & compensation to sick first responders of the 9/11 attacks. Democrats say they have the 60 votes needed to break through the filibuster threshold now that Sens. Chuck Schumer & Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have worked out an agreement on new cost off-sets with Republican Susan Collins of Maine. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-IL, has already voiced his support for the bill. But Democrats could run into opposition from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, who has vowed to oppose the measure – a move that could derail its chances of passage since every bit of time is precious as Christmas approaches. Coburn has raised concerns about the bill and called on Congress to take it up next year. “This is a bill,” he told FOX News, “that’s been drawn up and forced through Congress at the end of the year on a basis to solve a problem that we didn't have time to solve and we didn't get done.” Coburn’s stance infuriated Schumer. “I believe we have the votes to prevail. The only thing standing in our way is people who will try to run out the clock,” said Schumer.  Both the House and the Senate will need to pass the bill – and that could keep Congress in session right up until Christmas Eve if lawmakers don’t find a way to speed up the process.  

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