Ben Nelson says no valid reason to reject nuclear treaty

2010-12-21T14:45:00Z 2011-01-03T17:25:02Z Ben Nelson says no valid reason to reject nuclear treatyBy DON WALTON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
December 21, 2010 2:45 pm  • 

Sen. Ben Nelson said Tuesday "there is no good reason" not to ratify the nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, suggesting much of the opposition in the Senate is based on partisan politics.

It is "irresponsible and dangerous (to allow) the Washington parlor game of partisan politics" to stand in the way of a treaty that is in the national security interest of the United States, he said.

Nelson, a Democrat, said the treaty will reduce the number of nuclear weapons, restore inspection and verification in Russia after 380 days without any on-site monitoring and send a message of nuclear nonproliferation to other nations.

After six days of debate and 21 hearings and briefings, there is no reasonable argument for delaying action on a treaty that was submitted to the Senate seven months ago, Nelson said during a telephone conference call from Washington.

With enough Republican votes apparently committed on Tuesday to gain the two-thirds vote required for ratification, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid set a final vote on the treaty for Wednesday.

Republican Sen. Mike Johanns has said he's undecided how he will vote.

Johanns was one of 28 senators to vote against a cloture motion Tuesday that cleared the way for a final vote on the treaty by ending debate. The motion was approved 67-28.

"After much consideration about this important treaty, I have determined that it's just this simple: We should stay here as long as it takes to get this right," Johanns said.

Johanns said he wants full debate on six additional amendments that would address what he called significant concerns about the treaty.

Responding to questions during his conference call, Nelson took note that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., previously has identified the defeat of President Barack Obama in 2012 as his top priority.

"Not jobs, not paying down the debt, not improving the economy," Nelson said. "Way too often recently, Congress has been more about winning elections than about the people.

"More about politics and power than the people, as reflected in Sen. McConnell's statement."

Nelson said the legislative agreement on tax cuts brokered by Obama and Republican congressional leaders and approved by the Congress earlier this month was a hopeful sign of bipartisan cooperation.

Sixty-seven votes for the arms treaty in the Senate would look like "robust bipartisanship given where we've been in this town," he said.

"Hopefully, it will carry over into other areas."

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or at dwalton@journalstar.com.

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