Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) predicted on Sunday that President Obama would not get the votes needed to pass his nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia unless there were significant modifications to the administration's approach.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," the Connecticut Independent suggested that he himself would oppose ratification of the START II Treaty that Obama signed in Prague this past week, in part because, he reasoned, the language left America vulnerable to a nuclear Iran.
"I don't believe that there will be 67 votes to ratify the treaty unless the administration does two things," Lieberman said. "First: commit to modernize our nuclear stockpile, so as we have less nuclear weapons we know that they are capable if, God forbid, we need them. And secondly, to make absolutely clear that the statements by Russian president [Dmitry] Medvedev at the signing in program, that seemed to suggest that if we continue to build ballistic missile defense in Europe they may pull out of this treaty, is just not acceptable to us. We need that defense to protect our allies and ourselves from Iran."
Lieberman's comments foreshadow what seems likely to be a piqued and difficult battle for the White House on the nuclear arms control front. The president is set to meet with a host of world leaders this week to discuss and outline a system for weapons reduction. Domestically, however, his administration needs to cobble together at least eight Republicans (nine, if Lieberman crosses party lines) to get START II into law. As for the specific complaints that Lieberman has with the proposed treaty, tinkering with the missile defense approach seems to be the most difficult task, as it was a major sticking point in U.S.-Russia negotiations.
Asked whether he thought the treaty would end up passing the Senate, Lieberman's co-panelist on Fox News, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) refused to offer a prediction, except to say it would be at least a year before the issue was considered.
"There is not a chance the treaty will be approved this year," said the Tennessee Republican. "It took a year and a half for to approve the START I Treaty, and with the Supreme Court pushed to the front of the agenda in the Senate, and with jobs, terror, and debt being our major issues we should be worrying about, this is an issue for next year."