ABC News’ Karen Travers and Ann Compton report:
President Obama said on Sunday that he has told Congress that passing the new START treaty during the lame duck session is a “top priority.”
“I reiterated my commitment to get the start treaty done during the lame duck session,” the president said after a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. “And I’ve communicated to Congress it is a top priority.”
Obama and Medvedev signed the new treaty in April in Prague. The nuclear agreement requires both countries to reduce their arsenals from 2,200 deployed warheads each to 1,550 over seven years, a 30 percent reduction from the last treaty. The U.S. and Russia also agreed to reduce their long-range missiles and launchers to 700 for each country as well. (More here: http://bit.ly/a2Tv3k)
The Obama Administration wants the Senate to ratify the treaty before the new Congress takes over in January – when the Democratic majority there shrinks by six. The White House is concerned that if they wait until January, new members of Congress would succeed in blocking the treaty because they see it as too friendly to Russia.
The administration needs 67 votes for ratification so winning Republicans support is essential.
Today President Obama ignored questions from reporters about whether he would put more money on the table to get Republicans on board.
The Associated Press reported on Saturday that the administration has outlined a plan that includes an addition $4.1 billion between 2012-2016 for modernization of the American nuclear stockpile. According to the AP, the plan has been presented to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) who is seen as a critical vote.
National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said on Saturday that he could not confirm the report but emphasized that the Obama Administration is committed to “really addressing what had been a real shortfall in funding for maintaining and enhancing the nation’s nuclear infrastructure.”
Donilon said the treaty is “a very important priority for us.”
“It’s important for U.S. leadership in the world in the nonproliferation agenda,” he told reporters in Yokohama Japan. “And it’s important for the U.S.-Russia relationship.”
Mr. Obama also said that the United States continues to work closely with Russia on their interest in joining the World Trade Organization.
The two presidents met for about an hour on the sidelines of the APEC summit here in Japan. They will see each other again next week in Lisbon Portugal at a NATO summit.
“Both he and I are racking up a lot of miles on our airplanes these days,” Obama said of his Russian counterpart. “But there’s a lot of work to do and I’m glad to have him as an excellent partner on a whole range of these issues.”