- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Sunday that Senate Democrats have enough votes during the lame-duck session to pass the Obama administration’s new nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

“I think we do” have the 67 votes, or two-thirds majority, Mr. Durbin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re moving forward.”

He said 66 senators already have supported the effort to move forward with the debate.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. later backed that claim on “Meet the Press.”

“I believe we do” have the votes, he said in a pre-taped interview.

The Senate begins a rare Sunday session at noon. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, is expected to attempt to end debate on the treaty, which would establish a preliminary vote on New START by early this week.

Congress has passed major legislation during the lame-duck session — including extending tax cuts for all Americans and allowing gays to serve openly in the military. However, only several days remain in the session before Christmas. And Republicans say they don’t have enough time to debate or propose amendments to the New START agreement, which would assure European allies of continued U.S. support.

Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and a major critic of the treaty, acknowledged President Obama’s letter this weekend to the Senate assuring lawmakers of the United States’ commitment to building a long-range missile defense system in Europe. However, he said that promise should be in the treaty.

“Tell that to the Russians,” he said. “This treaty needs to be fixed.”

Mr. Kyl said Congress has run out of time to properly debate the issue.

Said Mr. Durbin: “Jon has had ample time to express himself.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, also said Sunday the GOP needs additional time.

“I’ve decided that I cannot support the treaty,” Mr. McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The GOP needs time.”

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