The fate of a nuclear arms treaty that President Obama signed with Russia, called the New START treaty, lies in the hands of the U.S. Senate. However, there are many questions about whether the Senate will choose to accept, or ratify, the treaty, and when that may happen.
President Obama and Russian President Medvedev signed the New START treaty last April, which significantly draws back the number of nuclear weapons each country may have in its arsenal. But, many U.S. lawmakers are worried that the treaty also means the U.S. will have to draw back its missile defense plans over Europe and the Middle East.
Also at issue is whether the Senate can finish its negotiations about the treaty before the winter holidays. While some senators say it's important for them and their colleagues to get home for Christmas, others say it's more important that they address all of the pending legislation in this session of Congress, including the New START treaty.
Democratic senators criticize their Republican counterparts for delaying action in the Senate until the last minute, and Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he will keep the Senate in session for as long as it takes to ratify the treaty, even if they have to work through the holidays. 67 senators' votes are needed to ratify the treaty.
"The United States must be able to rapidly adapt and respond to new threats to our security. Now is the time for more flexible deterrent capability, not less. New START is riddled with U.S. concessions, from which I can see little gain." - Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.)
"I understand Christmas. I have been a senator for a long time. I have been there many years where we go right up to Christmas. There's 10 days between now and Christmas. I hope I don't get in the way of your Christmas shopping, but this is the nation's business. And national security is at stake. Act. Act." - Vice President Joe Biden
"Arms control treaties are an integral part of this country's modern history, premised on the shared belief that a world with fewer nuclear weapons is a safer world." - Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
1. What is the Senate?
2. What is a treaty between two countries? Can you name some international treaties that the U.S. has agreed to?
3. What is arms control, and why is it an important issue?
1. Democrats lost many Congressional seats in the recent midterm elections, while Republicans made historic gains. Since the newly elected Congress will take over in January, why might the Republicans want to stall legislation while the Democrats might want to hurry it up?
2. Do you think the Senate should have to work through Christmas? Why or why not?
3. According to the video, what are the arguments for and against ratifying the New START treaty? Which argument do you most agree with? Why?