Sen. Ben Nelson said Monday he supports Senate ratification of the new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, but he is not sure there is enough time to accomplish that this month.
"I think people who are opposed to ratification better have very good reasons," he said during a telephone interview from Washington.
The treaty would restore nuclear weapons inspection and verification procedures that have been missing for a year, Nelson said, and "send a message to (those) who are worried about nuclear arms proliferation and to those who want to proliferate."
Without the treaty, the United States no longer is in position to follow Republican President Ronald Reagan's arms control doctrine of "trust, but verify," the Democratic senator said.
The differences between the treaty negotiated by the Obama administration and the treaty signed by Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1991 are "basically inconsequential," Nelson said.
"A lot of the opposition to this treaty thus far is partisan, based on assumptions that don't stand up to the facts."
The White House is seeking approval during this month's lame-duck congressional session, arguing that the treaty is vital to U.S. national security and fearing it will be much more difficult to get the 67 votes required for ratification when Republicans hold more Senate seats next year.
Nelson said he is not certain there are 67 votes in the current Senate.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he said, he is aware that many senators want to ask questions and make comments during a full Senate debate.
"If it can be accomplished yet this session, that would be worthwhile," Nelson said. "But I think there's not enough time to get that done."
He said Russian officials are "sophisticated and they understand Congress," so they would understand a delay.