ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports: Another GOP senator today came out in favor of the START pact – and it’s no less than the chamber’s number-three Republican.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, said he will vote in favor of ratification.
“I will vote to ratify the treaty because it leaves our countries with enough nuclear warheads to blow any attacker to Kingdom Come,” Alexander said in a speech on the Senate floor.
“In short I’m convinced that Americans are safer and more secure with the new START treaty than without it,” he noted.
Alexander said he and three other senators had written to President Obama earlier this week asking that the president include funding for nuclear modernization in his budget requests to Congress and yesterday the president sent a reply letter agreeing to the request.
His vote is a big boost for Democrats – the treaty now appears likely to pass later this week, barring a last-minute setback.
Just last Wednesday Alexander had joined a group of a dozen Republican senators to rail against Democrats for trying to pass the treaty during the lame-duck session of Congress.
“This is not the way to do it,” he said last Wednesday at a press conference. “This is not the way to get 67 votes and it’s a reckless way to consider the treaty.”
Today Alexander reiterated his frustration with Democrats for trying to pass the treaty during the lame-duck, as well as passing other matters such as the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal in the midst of the START debate. Alexander called it “a flawed process” that he said has “poisoned the well.”
There are now six Senate Republicans who have said they will vote for the treaty: Dick Lugar of Indiana, George Voinovich of Ohio, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Alexander. Bob Corker of Tennessee has said he will almost definitely vote for the pact, while Judd Gregg of New Hampshire has said he is inclined to vote for it, too. Thad Cochran of Mississippi will also vote for the treaty according to New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, but Cochran has not confirmed that stance.
If all those nine Republicans vote for the treaty, then it will be enough to reach the two-thirds majority in the Senate needed for ratification. A procedural vote to end debate on the treaty is expected to occur later today.