Senate Breaks GOP Filibuster On START Nuclear Treaty

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The Senate voted 67-28 to break a GOP filibuster and end debate on the START nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia, paving the way for a final vote on ratification later this week that could be another major victory for the Obama administration in the lame duck session.

A sufficient number of Republicans broke ranks against right-wing opposition to the treaty, which was led in part by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), to cut off debate. Now all that remains is a vote on ratification, which has to reach the Constitution’s required two-thirds vote to approve a treaty, a higher bar than the 60 votes for breaking a filibuster — and a bar that the cloture vote has already achieved so far. That vote is expected this week — and enough Republicans have already pledged support.

The treaty had also been held up in the Senate, with some Republicans even hinting that their opposition was being fanned in reaction to Democrats pursuing such other objectives as the DREAM Act and the (ultimately successful) repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

But momentum grew in the last few days, with key Republicans such as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) coming on board.

Numerous Republicans who are not currently in office — including all six living Republican former Secretaries of State, from Henry Kissinger through Condoleezza Rice — have urged ratification.Late Update: The roll call vote has been posted online. The following 11 Republicans voted for cloture:

Lamar Alexander (TN)
Bob Bennett (UT) — lame duck, defeated for re-nomination at state GOP convention.
Scott Brown (MA)
Thad Cochran (MS)
Susan Collins (ME)
Bob Corker (TN)
Johnny Isakson (GA)
Richard Lugar (IN)
Lisa Murkowski (AK) — Was defeated for renomination in GOP primary, but apparently won the general election as write-in candidate.
Olympia Snowe (ME)
George Voinovich (OH) — lame duck, retired in 2010.

The following five Senators missed the vote: Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), who is retiring; Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), who is retiring, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), who is now the Governor-elect of Kansas; Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), who is retiring; and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has been recovering from surgery for early-stage prostate cancer.

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