(photo: Great Beyond)

In a cloture vote, the Senate today voted by a 67-28 margin to cut off debate on the new START nuclear arms reduction treaty, displaying enough bipartisan support to ratify the treaty with a 2/3 majority tomorrow.

Republican Senators have been announcing their support for the treaty all day, including Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, Johnny Isakson, George Voinovich and Lisa Murkowski. Along with the other commitments, that gives the Senate the votes they need for passage. Ron Wyden will not vote tomorrow as he recuperates from prostate cancer surgery, and Evan Bayh is no joke on a “farewell tour” of his state, but it doesn’t look like they will be needed for passage.

Harry Reid, who continues to rack up victories in the lame duck, released this statement:

“This treaty will make America safer and restore our leadership in global efforts to stop nuclear proliferation. I am encouraged that a number of my Republican colleagues have joined us to support a treaty that has been endorsed by everyone from former President George H.W. Bush to former Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and James Baker. We have already had an open and robust debate on the treaty, and we will continue to consider amendments during the time remaining.

“The Senate has a long history of bipartisanship in working to further arms control. I am hopeful that when the Senate votes tomorrow on ratification, we will send a powerful statement about America’s commitment to non-proliferation with a strong bipartisan vote.”

It’s almost ridiculous that an arms treaty that is basically indistinguishable from what Ronald Reagan negotiated with the Soviets has become a partisan issue, but I guess the President gets a “win” for this one. As do people who like verification regimes so that nuclear materials are accounted for.

With new START and the continuing resolution out of the way, the only other big item left that the Senate would like to pass is the 9-11 health care bill. It appears that Tom Coburn will drag out passage of that bill, potentially killing it in the lame duck. He may be acting to the benefit of the US Chamber of Commerce, which still opposes the bill because of the offsets that pay for it. The White House actually engaged on the bill today, crediting Jon Stewart with raising awareness of the issue. And Democrats put out a brutal video, featuring George Bush’s “bullhorn moment” at Ground Zero and a host of Republicans calling the rescue workers heroes, to put pressure on Republicans for passage or at least exact a political price.

It’s unclear whether this will result in legislation, especially given that the House is disinclined to wait around for it.

David Dayen

David Dayen