Senate Democrats appear to have the nine Republican votes they need to ratify the New START nuclear treaty this week and give President Obama his third major victory of the lame-duck session.
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) told reporters Monday afternoon that he would vote to ratify the treaty and also support a motion to end debate, which the Senate will consider Tuesday.
“I believe it’s something that’s important for our country and I believe it’s a good move forward,” Brown said after emerging from a classified briefing in the Old Senate Chamber.
He was the ninth Republican senator to announce publicly that he would vote to ratify or is leaning strongly in favor of doing so.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, became the 10th Republican to back the treaty on Monday evening.
“I’m leaning toward supporting the treaty but I want to makes sure our side gets a fair hearing,” Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.) said.
Said Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio: “I support it.”
Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), a Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he is also likely to vote for the treaty if the Obama administration answers some more questions about it and Democratic leaders allow additional Republican amendments to receive votes.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, announced Monday that Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) would also support the treaty.
Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) said a recent letter from Obama reassured him enough to vote for ratification.
The two Republican senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, have already announced they would vote for New START in the lame-duck session.
Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.), ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is an outspoken supporter who has worked for months to corral GOP votes. He has predicted for several days that the treaty will win ratification.
Sen. Mark Kirk is a centrist who voted on Saturday to repeal the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which barred gays from serving openly. Democrats hope he will join them on New START as well.
Murkowski said last week she was reviewing the treaty and had not yet reached a decision.
UPDATE: Wow, again -- Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee says he will support New START when the vote comes, likely later today. If all the Republicans who've publicly indicated their intention to vote yes actually do so, ratification is a fait accompli.
UPDATE II: Rich Lowry hears GOP opposition to the treaty is "collapsing," and that as many as 75 senators might vote aye. His reaction:
At least Jon Kyl was able to get more money for modernization and that letter from President Obama making assurances on missile defense. Otherwise, this is a dismaying rout.
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