Washington (AFP) Dec 17, 2010 The White House's Democratic allies in the US Senate should drop plans to repeal a military ban on gays serving openly or risk the fate of a nuclear pact with Russia, a Republican senator said Friday. Republican Senator Bob Corker, who has played a key role in debates on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), urged Democrats to scrap plans to hold a key vote Saturday on ending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" prohibition.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Corker said that procedural vote, and another on an immigration provision, "poisons the well on this debate on something that's very, very important."
"I'm hoping that those will be taken down or I don't think the future of the START treaty over the next several days is going to be successful, based on what I'm watching," in meetings with fellow Republicans, he warned.
Corker said he hoped "saner minds will prevail" and that Democrats will abandon their push for the two votes, which he condemned as being "strictly there for political gain."
In response, Democratic Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said "my hope is that everybody will simply rise above whatever, however they want to view these votes."
Number-two Senate Republican Jon Kyl, his party's point man on the treaty, seemed to echo Corker when asked whether there was any connection between the treaty and the repeal vote.
"The only linkage is that the problem of having all of these political votes is that it certainly doesn't help create an atmosphere of cooperation on other issues," he said.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid late Thursday set the stage for key test votes Saturday on the DREAM Act to help children of undocumented immigrants and the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal.
The immigration measure was expected to fail, but Democrats were thought to have the 60 votes needed to end debate on the repeal.
Corker's warning came as leading Republicans have worked to kill the nuclear arms control accord or at least put off a final vote until next year in what would be a severe blow to President Barack Obama.
The agreement -- which has the support of virtually every present and past US foreign policy or national security heavyweight -- restricts each nation to a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads, a cut of about 30 percent from a limit set in 2002, and 800 launchers and bombers.
The accord would also return US inspectors who have been unable to monitor Russia's arsenal since the treaty's predecessor lapsed in December 2009.
Asked about the Republican warnings, Senate Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin, a Democrat who has played a key role in both matters, replied: "I would hope they wouldn't do that. I mean we ought to pass them both."
And pressed on which of the two issues he would give up, Levin replied: "I'm not choosing between my children."
Senator John McCain, the top Republican on Levin's committee, accused Reid of setting up votes aimed at stoking the Democratic base for "political advantage" and warned Republicans were "just growing weary" of such maneuvers.
But McCain stopped well short of tying the treaty to the Saturday votes