WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s arms control treaty with Russia advanced to the Senate floor with bipartisan support Thursday, giving it a major boost toward ratification despite the election-year polarization that has divided the parties over so many other issues.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 14-4 to approve the treaty known as New START, with three Republicans joining Democrats after negotiating an accompanying resolution addressing concerns about missile defense and modernization of the nuclear arsenal.
The vote was a rare instance in which Obama has won more than token Republican support for a signature initiative. But he still faces a battle to secure final approval on the Senate floor, where under the Constitution the treaty needs a two-thirds vote, meaning at least eight Republicans. With many Republicans still opposed, Democrats are likely to delay a floor vote until a lame-duck session after the election Nov. 2.
Obama considers the treaty one of his most tangible foreign policy achievements and the centerpiece of his effort to rebuild relations with Russia after years of tension.
Signed by Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague in April, the treaty would bar each side from deploying more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads or 700 launchers starting seven years after final ratification.
Perhaps just as significantly, it would establish a new inspection and monitoring regime to replace the longstanding program that lapsed last year with START’s expiration.