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State Dept. Disputes Need for Senate Approval of Further Nuke Cuts

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) confers in 2012 with then-Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), who took over as Secretary of State earlier this year. A State Department official this week denied Kerry had assured Corker that the Obama administration would seek Senate approval of any agreement with Moscow to further curb deployments of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arms (AP Photo/Evan Vucci). U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) confers in 2012 with then-Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), who took over as Secretary of State earlier this year. A State Department official this week denied Kerry had assured Corker that the Obama administration would seek Senate approval of any agreement with Moscow to further curb deployments of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arms (AP Photo/Evan Vucci).

The Obama administration has asserted it would not necessarily have to seek Senate backing of a potential deal with Russia to remove hundreds of nuclear warheads from long-range missiles and aircraft, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

President Obama this week called for new bilateral talks aimed at cutting deployed strategic nuclear warheads by up to one-third. An existing treaty commits each side to hold no more than 1,550 launch-ready warheads by 2018, and the proposed reductions might ultimately lower that ceiling to roughly 1,000 weapons.

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) previously said Secretary of State John Kerry had assured him "that any further reductions would occur in bilateral treaty negotiations subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.”

A State Department insider, though, said Kerry had only said "the [Senate Foreign Relations Committee] would be consulted as we moved forward into discussions with the Russian Federation."

Kerry "did not indicate that the administration had decided to codify any results in a treaty,” the State Department source said by e-mail.

A new deal could be worded less formally to sidestep the need for Senate approval, according to prior reporting.

In a Wednesday letter to Kerry, 24 GOP senators said Leon Panetta and Joseph Biden had each referenced a strong precedent for Senate approval of arms control treaties during their respective tenures at the Defense Department and in Congress.

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