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President Obama Challenges Republicans to Approve START Treaty

Barack Obama delivers his weekly address, 20 Nov 2010
Barack Obama delivers his weekly address, 20 Nov 2010
Alex Villarreal

U.S. President Barack Obama is urging senators to approve a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia before the end of the year. The president used his weekly radio and Internet address to step up criticism of Senate Republicans working to delay the vote.

President Obama says the agreement to cut the U.S. and Russia's deployed nuclear arsenals by 30 percent is "fundamental" to U.S. national security.

Delivering his weekly address from a NATO summit in Portugal, Mr. Obama said failing to pass the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty would be a "dangerous gamble," leaving the U.S. with no way to ensure its security is protected.

"It has already been 11 months since we had inspectors in Russia, and every day that goes by without ratification is a day that we lose confidence in our understanding of Russia's nuclear weapons. If the Senate does not act this year - after six months, 18 hearings, and nearly a thousand questions answered - it would have to start over from scratch in January," he said.

President Obama said Republicans trying to block the vote are going against the rule of the late former President Ronald Reagan, "Trust, but verify."

He said ending the year without a new START treaty could also cost the U.S. Russia's support on other issues.

"Without ratification, we put at risk the coalition that we have built to put pressure on Iran, and the transit routes through Russia that we use to equip our troops in Afghanistan. And without ratification, we risk undoing decades of American leadership on nuclear security and decades of bipartisanship on this issue. Our security and our position in the world are at stake," said the president.

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the new agreement in April.

Senator Jon Kyl, the Republican negotiator on the issue, has resisted Mr. Obama's efforts to hold the vote on the treaty before the new Congress takes office in January with a stronger Republican presence.

President Obama addressed concerns raised by Kyl and other Republicans, saying the new START treaty will not harm U.S. missile defense efforts and vowing to invest at least $85 billion in efforts to modernize the U.S. nuclear infrastructure over the next 10 years.

Saturday's weekly Republican address focused on domestic issues. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell accused the administration of not doing enough to reduce unemployment, which remains near 10 percent. McConnell urged President Obama to extend tax cuts that expire this year, saying raising taxes will only cost the country more jobs.

"It is time Congress got its priorities straight," he said. "It is time Congress focused on job creation. And that means preventing tax hikes. It is time to set aside the political votes and government spending that the administration and Democratic leaders have put above all other priorities for two years. Time is running out, but it is not too late."

Mr. Obama supports extending the tax cuts only on the first $250,000 a family earns in a year, but McConnell says Americans do not think anyone should have to face higher taxes, especially in the middle of a recession.

Watch weekly Rebublican address:

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