U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins said Friday they support the strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty negotiated between the United States and Russia, known as New START.
“I am confident that New START will provide predictability in our relationship with Russia and thus enhance global stability, and most importantly, our national security,” Snowe said in a statement.
Supporters said Friday that they have the necessary 67 votes for approval.
“We’ve got enough Republican support to pass the treaty,” said Mark Helmke, a spokesman for Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana, the leading Republican supporter of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. “We are hopeful that Senator Reid sets the schedule as soon as possible,” he said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.
Reid plans to bring up the treaty for a vote before Congress adjourns for the year, spokesman Jim Manley said. The Senate first plans to finish debates on pending legislation to extend expiring tax cuts and a measure to finance government operations.
Helmke declined to name Republican backers because some haven’t registered their support publicly.
But besides Lugar of Indiana, U.S. Sen Judd Gregg of New Hampshire has indicated he will support the treaty. Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Johnny Isakson of Georgia voted for the ratification resolution when it was approved by the foreign relations committee.
The treaty calls for both countries to reduce their nuclear stockpiles to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads, 700 deployed delivery vehicles and 800 deployed and nondeployed launchers.
It also allows each side to monitor compliance by establishing new inspection and verification procedures.
A similar treaty ratified by the Senate in 1992 has been expired for about one year.
Snowe, who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said she has scrutinized the pact and is satisfied that classified matters were properly vetted.
“Much has changed since the original START was first negotiated in 1991, and as a result I have supported efforts to make certain that questions regarding our ability to verify Russian compliance with the treaty’s limits — to develop and deploy effective missile defenses and to modernize our nuclear weapons complex — have been satisfactorily resolved,” she said.
But she conditioned support on majority Democrats allowing for “sufficient debate and amendments.”
Both Maine Republicans had resisted officially supporting the treaty during interviews with MaineToday Media last week until their remaining concerns had been addressed.
Collins had written a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates last week airing concerns about the number of Russian tactical nuclear weapons, which she said are vulnerable to theft and misuse for nuclear terrorism. After receiving a response and speaking with Clinton by telephone on Thursday, Collins said she was satisfied with the agreement.
“I support the president’s commitment to reduce not only the number of strategic nuclear weapons through the New START treaty, but also to reduce, in the future, those weapons that are most vulnerable to theft and misuse — and those are tactical nuclear weapons,” she said in a statement released by her office.
A large bipartisan group of former U.S. security officials have announced their support for the treaty.
Roger Fenn, spokesman for the Maine chapter of the group Physicians for Social Responsibility, said he was pleased to hear the announcements.
“It still is an urgent item on the Senate agenda since more than a year has passed since the original START expired and we lost the ability to verify Russian compliance under the old treaty,” he said.
“Their endorsement is proof that Sens. Collins and Snowe have heard Maine people who have urged for support for ratification.”
The Washington Post contributed to this report
MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: