This was a vote on a motion to end debate (known as a “cloture motion”) on a nuclear weapons reduction treaty. This treaty (known as the “New START” treaty) was strongly supported by the Obama administration, and limited the number of warheads the U.S. and Russia could maintain in their nuclear arsenals to 1,550.
A cloture motion is a procedure by which the Senate can vote to end, or to place a time limit on, debate of a bill, and thereby overcome a filibuster. At least 60 senators must vote in favor of a cloture motion in order for it to pass.
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) praised the treaty: “This responsibility for stopping the arms race rests on our shoulders. Yes, we must do it in our national interests, protecting ourselves as we do. In my judgment, this treaty meets every one of those measures. I am pleased to support it and pleased to be here to say that I hope my colleagues will…come to the floor of the Senate with robust support for what I think is outstanding work.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) urged support for the treaty: “I will vote to ratify the New START treaty between the United States and Russia because it leaves our country with enough nuclear warheads to blow any attacker to kingdom come… I am convinced that Americans are safer and more secure with the New START treaty than without it.”
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urged opposition to the treaty, and criticized President Obama’s nuclear arms control agenda in general: “Although the president has decided there is value in pursuing a disarmament agenda, this country may determine in the coming years to place a greater reliance upon the role of strategic arms [nuclear weapons that can be launched at distant targets], and we must remain committed to defense modernization. Our nation faces many challenges in the coming decades…It would seem short-sighted to think that as North Korea, Iran and others work to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities we could draw our arsenal down to zero.”
The Senate agreed to the motion to end debate on this treaty by a vote of 67-28. All 56 Democrats present and 11 Republicans voted “yea.” 28 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate ended debate on a treaty (thus allowing the treaty and amendments to be voted on) limiting the number of warheads the U.S. and Russia could maintain in their nuclear arsenals to 1,550.