November 17th, 2010
02:40 PM ET
Washington (CNN) – White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs vowed Wednesday that President Obama will have the votes to get an arms control treaty ratified during the lame duck session of Congress, despite a top Republican Senator's insistence that it be delayed until next year.
The time frame is crucial because if there is a delay for the treaty, which needs 67 votes for passage, a new Senate with a slimmer Democratic majority will be sworn in come January. In that case Obama would suddenly need to line up seven more Republican votes from GOP freshmen who are generally very skeptical of both the Obama administration's foreign policy in general and the treaty in particular.
Kyl on Tuesday expressed deep concern about the treaty and told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that he should wait until next year to consider the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).
Gibbs told reporters that Obama is willing to meet with Kyl to address his concerns. "We'd be happy to meet with anybody," he said.
But Gibbs added that the White House is adamant that "failure to pass this endangers our national security" and could jeopardize continued good relations with Russia, which has helped the U.S. military transport supplies into Afghanistan.
"I don't think it's going to get pushed into next year," Gibbs said of the treaty. "I think we're - we're going - we're going to get this done because it's crucial to our security, it's crucial to our inspection regime, it's - it's crucial to seeing the reduction in those deployed weapons, and it's crucial to our international relationships."
He added, "I think this will get done before the end of the year."
Asked if he is convinced that the White House will have the votes to get it done and out of the way this year, Gibbs said, "We think we do - or think we'll get them."
Kyl has largely been seeking assurances that the current U.S. nuclear stockpile will be well maintained. In order to allay that concern, the administration agreed late last week to spend an extra $4.1 billion into modernizing America's nuclear complex, a move that was made just before Obama met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Japan on the sidelines of the APEC Summit to reassure his counterpart that the treaty will be completed.
Gibbs cast the issue as much broader than just an arms control agreement, saying that it will be a "test" to see whether "both sides can work together" in the changed political environment after the midterm election.