WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate on Wednesday ratified an arms control treaty with Russia that reins in the nuclear weapons that could plunge the world into doomsday, giving President Barack Obama a major foreign policy win in Congress' waning hours.
Thirteen Republicans broke with their top two leaders and joined 56 Democrats and two independents in providing the necessary two-thirds vote to approve the treaty. The vote was 71-26, with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., showing up just two days after cancer surgery.
The accord, which still must be approved by Russia, would restart onsite weapons inspections as successors to President Ronald Reagan have embraced his edict of "trust, but verify." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow welcomed the vote but still needed to study the accompanying Senate resolution.
Calling the treaty a national security imperative, Obama had pressed for its approval before a new, more Republican Congress assumes power in January. In recent days, he had telephoned a handful of wavering Republicans, eventually locking in their votes.
The Obama administration has argued that the United States must show credibility in its improved relations with its former Cold War foe, and the treaty was critical to any rapprochement. The White House is counting on Russia to help pressure Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
"A responsible partnership between the world's two largest nuclear powers that limits our nuclear arsenals while maintaining strategic stability is imperative to promoting global security," Clinton said in a statement applauding the vote.
The New START treaty, signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April, would limit each country's strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, down from the current ceiling of 2,200. It also would establish a system for monitoring and verification. U.S. weapons inspections ended last year with the expiration of a 1991 treaty.