WASHINGTON — An agreement between the United States and Russia to slash their nuclear arsenals was in danger of collapse after an influential Republican senator said it should not be voted on this year.
With a terse statement Tuesday, Sen. Jon Kyl dealt a major setback to President Barack Obama's efforts to improve ties with Russia and to his broader strategy for reducing nuclear arms worldwide. The treaty, known as New START, had been seen as one of Obama's top foreign policy accomplishments.
Without the support of Kyl, the leading Republican voice on the treaty, Democrats have little hope of securing at least eight Republican votes — the minimum they would need for ratification in the current Senate.
Kyl's position, unless reversed, would delay the vote until the newly elected Senate, with an expanded Republican minority, has been sworn in in January. Democrats would then need the support of at least 14 Republicans.
The White House has been trying to avoid that fate, knowing that ratification could slip out of reach in the face of opposition to the treaty from most Republicans and an increasingly partisan political environment in Washington.
At a minimum, that probably would set the treaty back for months, because Republicans are likely to demand new hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee so that newly elected lawmakers would be briefed.