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Key Senate committee passes nuclear arms treaty

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the new nuclear arms treaty
  • The treaty passed 14-4, with 3 Republicans voting in favor
  • The treaty sets a ceiling of 1,550 nuclear warheads for Russia and the United States
  • 67 senators must vote for the treaty in order for it to be ratified

Washington (CNN) -- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the new nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States Thursday.

The committee voted 14-4 in favor of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which must now be ratified by the full Senate.

Three committee Republicans backed the measure -- Indiana's Richard Lugar, Tennessee's Bob Corker, and Georgia's Johnny Isakson.

President Barack Obama released a statement shortly after the vote praising the committee's "important step forward" in advancing U.S. security interests.

"I urge the full Senate to move forward quickly with a vote to approve this treaty. I encourage members on both sides of the aisle to give this agreement the fair hearing and bipartisan support that it deserves, and that has been given to past agreements of its kind," Obama said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates released a joint statement saying that the committee's vote "continues a decades-long tradition of senators from both parties providing advice and consent on arms control accords."

The treaty, signed in April by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, cuts the total number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia by about a third. Specifically, it fixes a ceiling for each country of 1,550 nuclear warheads and 700 deployed nuclear delivery vehicles.

The last START treaty expired in December.

Some top Senate Republicans have expressed skepticism about the accord, arguing that among other things, it complicates U.S. efforts to develop a missile defense system.

The treaty needs 67 votes in the Senate to be ratified. The Russian parliament is not expected to approve the accord until the full Senate approves it.

CNN's Adam Levine and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.