Richard Lugar wants the Senate to call his own party’s bluff on the new START arms reduction treaty, bringing it up for a vote in the lame duck session. He stood with John Kerry and Hillary Clinton yesterday, rebuking Senate Republicans for their stall tactics.

Lugar wants the Democratic Senate leadership to cut off negotiations immediately and force a vote on New START now, to compel senators to get off the fence and to end the endless stalling coming from his own side of the aisle.

“I’m advising that the treaty should come on the floor so people will have to vote aye or nay [even if there’s no deal],” he said. “I think when it finally comes down to it, we have sufficient number or senators who do have a sense of our national security. This is the time, this is the priority. Do it.”

Delaying until next year is a worst case scenario that could delay the treaty’s ratification for months or even years as new senators request additional time to study the issue, and the committee process begins all over again, he said.

The White House weighed in this morning and claimed they have the votes needed to pass the arms reduction treaty, which would return inspectors to Russian nuclear sites after almost a year. The negotiations with Jon Kyl, seen as the major obstacle to the treaty’s passage, continue in the meantime.

I agree that it was bang-your-head-on-the-wall-inducing to see the Administration characterized as “blindsided” by Kyl’s bad faith. This is pretty much par for the course of Republicans in the Obama era – delay, reject, stall, delay again, reject. But if they press forward, with Lugar’s support, at least the Republicans would have to pick a side.

As for the vote count, certainly a substantial number of Republicans will line up behind Kyl and pretend they know nothing about national security in order to do it. They are forsaking, as Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, a central tenet of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy, the concept of “trust, but verify,” which was said in reference to the first START treaty. Right now, we’ve spent nearly a year without access to Russian nuclear facilities, without knowing whether they are building more weapons, or more important, whether nuclear material is being smuggled out by rogue actors. Everyone agrees this is the most dangerous threat facing the world, and because Kyl wants to be bribed for nuclear pork, and because Republicans just don’t want to take a vote that could be misconstrued by their base as helpful to the President, they’re allowing that possibility to occur.

I’d put the odds at 30/70 that they can pass this in the lame duck. Somehow I can see enough GOPers lining up behind Kyl to block this.

David Dayen

David Dayen