State Dept. Disputes Need for Senate Approval of Further Nuke Cuts

Secretary of State John Kerry Secretary of State John Kerry Jacquelyn Martin/AP

The Obama administration has asserted it would not necessarily have to seek Senate backing of a potential deal with Russia to remove hundreds of nuclear warheads from long-range missiles and aircraft, the New York Times reported last week.

President Obama called for new bilateral talks aimed at cutting deployed strategic nuclear warheads by up to one-third. An existing treaty commits each side to hold no more than 1,550 launch-ready warheads by 2018, and the proposed reductions might ultimately lower that ceiling to roughly 1,000 weapons.

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) previously said Secretary of State John Kerry had assured him "that any further reductions would occur in bilateral treaty negotiations subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.”

A State Department insider, though, said Kerry had only said "the [Senate Foreign Relations Committee] would be consulted as we moved forward into discussions with the Russian Federation."

Kerry "did not indicate that the administration had decided to codify any results in a treaty,” the State Department source said by e-mail.

A new deal could be worded less formally to sidestep the need for Senate approval, according to prior reporting.

In a Wednesday letter to Kerry, 24 GOP senators said Leon Panetta and Joseph Biden had each referenced a strong precedent for Senate approval of arms control treaties during their respective tenures at the Defense Department and in Congress.

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