New START treaty – where things stand

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is tentatively scheduled to vote on the New START Treaty on Tuesday, July 27. This treaty would reduce the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia.

A treaty only requires a majority vote in committee, but it requires a two-thirds vote on the Senate floor. With all the committee Democrats and Sen. Dick Lugar (IN) supporting the treaty, the committee already has the votes to approve the treaty. However, if Lugar is the only Republican on the committee supporting START, final ratification is unlikely. Defeat of START would likely be the end of nuclear arms reductions for many years.
Five Republicans on the committee are undecided:

Hearing and Reports. As of next Tuesday, July 20, the last of 17 hearings will have been held by the Senate Foreign Relations, Armed Services, and Intelligence committees. All the required reports have been submitted by the administration as of yesterday.
Floor Schedule. If the Foreign Relations Committee reports out the treaty as tentatively scheduled on July 27, it may be possible to bring the treaty to a Senate floor vote the week of August 2. Committee chair John Kerry (MA), ranking member Lugar, and the administration agree that they would like to bring the treaty to a vote before the August recess. However, they also agree that they will not bring the treaty to a vote unless they have 67 firm “yes” votes.
Vote Count. All Democrats (including the new West Virginia senator) are expected to support the treaty, as well as Senator Lugar and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for a total of 59 votes. That means seven moderate Republicans plus Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are needed for ratification. The Republican senators who have declared their opposition to the treaty are Sens. Jim DeMint (SC) and Jim Inhofe (OK).
What to Do

If you live in Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wyoming:

  • email or fax your senator listed above on the Foreign Relations Committee urging your Senator to vote “yes” on the New START Treaty in committee
  • write letters-to-the-editor urging those five senators to support the treaty

If you live in another state, contact your Senators urging them to vote "yes" on the New START Treaty on the Senate Floor.

Opposition. The Heritage Foundation recently created a new advocacy organization, Heritage Action, one of whose priorities is to defeat START. Some conservative leaders, most notably former Gov. Mitt Romney, have also begun to attack the treaty.


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