Lugar: Senate 'on the threshold' of approving START arms treaty

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) on Sunday said he is optimistic that the START arms control treaty between the U.S. and Russia has "pretty strong bipartisan support" in the Senate and that a lame-duck vote this month will be successful.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" with host Candy Crowley, Lugar said he is optimistic that his colleagues want to vote on the treaty before the Christmas recess, after a deal is reached on extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and a continuing resolution to fund the government. 

Senate Republicans have threatened to block any measure in the chamber unless the tax cuts are dealt with, and several incoming GOP freshmen have demanded the chance to vote on the treaty in January, when the party will pick up six more seats. Mindful of the math, Democratic leaders are pushing for a vote this month.


Lugar said he expects that will happen, if Reid can resist pressure from Democrats to bring up other issues before the treaty.

"We're on the threshold," Lugar said. "I hope we will, and I think if we do, the votes are there."

Reid plans to bring up the treaty for a vote before the end of the year, in the ongoing lame-duck session. Sixty-seven votes are needed to ratify the treaty in the Senate — the House does not vote on treaties — and Lugar is critical to Democrats' hopes of persuading enough Republicans to support it. The ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee is well-respected for his foreign policy experience.

Led by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), Democrats are portraying the treaty as necessary to ensure Russia's ongoing compliance with the old START treaty that expired last December.

Pressed by Crowley on recent votes that have put him at odds with the GOP, Lugar denied he has become "cross-current" with the Republican caucus.

"I'm not sure I'm cross-current with my party," Lugar said. "There are other members who would agree with me on those issues, and some haven't come to a conclusion. I take your point that many members would say 'We just don't agree with those positions.' But the views I've taken, I believe, are ones that are important to the Republican Party."

Asked if he expects a primary challenge in Indiana from the more conservative flank of his party, Lugar acknowledged "there could very well be," but said he will be prepared.

"In the event that someone wants to run, they will at least know that they have a competitor in the field who is well-prepared, both financially, organizationally, and program-wise. In the past, perhaps, some of our Republican colleagues may have been surprised in the primary."

More in Blog Briefing Room

Jindal says US 'on the path towards socialism'

Read more »