Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the third highest ranking Republican, stated on the floor of the Senate this morning that he would vote to ratify the New START treaty. In supporting START, Alexander did not just issue a one-line statement. Instead, he fully justified his vote and in doing so obliterated many of the GOP talking points used against the treaty.
I will vote to ratify the New START treaty…because it leaves our country with enough nuclear warheads to blow any attacker to kingdom come. … I will vote for the treaty because it allows for inspection of Russian warheads and because our military leaders say there is nothing to interfere with the development of a missile defense system. I will vote for the treaty because the last six Republican Secretaries of State support its ratification. In short, I am convinced that Americans are safer and more secure with the New START treaty than without it.
Alexander’s decision to support New START should ensure that there are at least nine Republican votes for the treaty, therefore guaranteeing ratification. The vote may come later this afternoon.
His endorsement is quite a blow to Senate GOP leaders Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl, who both came out strongly in opposition to the treaty on Sunday. The statements of McConnell and Kyl led to a wave of pessimism about START’s prospects, as no arms control treaty has passed without the support of the minority leader. Yet just 24 hours later, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) said he would support the treaty and Sens. Judd Gregg (R-NH), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Bob Corker (R-TN), who voted for the treaty in committee, indicated they were likely to vote for START.
Rich Lowry of the National Review writes, “Republican opposition to New START is collapsing. One Senate source just told me the vote for ratification could go as high as 75… This is a dismaying rout.”