Obama confident Senate will ratify START nuke pact

Published 11:22 pm Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pushing a top foreign policy priority, President Barack Obama expressed confidence Wednesday the Senate would ratify a U.S.-Russia nuclear arms pact before breaking for the holidays.

The president also reiterated his insistence that Congress approve a tax deal he negotiated with Republicans, urging lawmakers to examine the details of the deal and “get this done.”

Obama drew specific attention Wednesday to Polish support for the treaty after meeting with Poland’s president, Bronislaw Komorowski, in the White House Oval Office.

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The treaty, known as START, has been a central piece of Obama’s agenda for the lame duck session of Congress. Ratification has bogged down as Republicans have sought assurances that the U.S. arsenal would continue to be modernized.

Komorowski, seated at Obama’s side, said START ratification would be an investment in a better and safer future, and said Poland wanted to help reset relations between Russia and the U.S.

Obama, noting he has discussed the pending treaty with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, said: “I am confident that we are going to be able to get the START treaty on the floor, debate and completed before we break for the holidays.”

He said international allies, including Poland, and “basically the entire national security apparatus of previous Democratic and Republican administrations” have come out in support of the treaty — all of which, he says, gives him confidence the Senate will ratify the deal.

In recent days, a number of Republicans have voiced support for the agreement, increasing its chances of ratification.

Republicans, however, have also insisted that they would not take up any other issue until Congress completes action on the tax plan and on a a broad spending measure to continue paying for government operations.

The tax plan is facing vigorous Democratic opposition in Congress. Obama forcefully rejected suggestions he had abandoned his allies to cut an agreement with the GOP.

“I think it is inaccurate to characterize Democrats, writ large, as quote-unquote betrayed.”

He said economists predict higher job growth in 2011 and 2012 if Congress passes the agreement. It would extend expiring Bush-era tax rates to all taxpayers for two years. The deal avoids a tax increase next year. It also includes a 13-month extension of jobless benefits and a one-year cut in payroll taxes.

He urged lawmakers to “examine the agreement, look at the facts, have a thorough debate, but get this done. The American people are watching.”