Kyl: START delay more 'reality than policy' with Reid's packed agenda

Senators foreshadowed an explosive lame-duck debate over whether ratification of the START nuclear arms treaty would wait until the 112th Congress.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the minority whip whose support is seen as key to garnering the Republican backing needed to pass the treaty, said Sunday that he saw "no chance" of START passing in the lame-duck session.

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"It's more a view of reality than policy," Kyl said on NBC's "Meet the Press," adding that if Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Dems can’t ‘Bork’ Kavanaugh, and have only themselves to blame Dem senator: Confidential documents would 'strongly bolster' argument against Kavanaugh's nomination MORE (D-Nev.) would allow a couple of weeks for study, debate and amendments, "then theoretically there would be time."

Kyl said that a continuing resoution to fund the government and extension of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts would swallow much of the three weeks before the Christmas break, but noted that Reid would push "political commitments" into the agenda, including the DREAM Act and "Don't ask, don't tell."

"[Reid] can bring the START treaty up any time he wants to, but he has a different agenda," Kyl said. "My issue is that you can't do everything. How can Harry Reid do all of the things we talked about and in addition to that deal with the START treaty?"

Majority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (D-Ill.) countered that "we can do all of those things before Christmas," and urged the Senate to act in a bipartisan fashion.

"Let's roll up our sleeves and do it," he said.

Durbin, also on NBC, said he respected Kyl's concerns about the treaty, which range from modernization to the potential for further arms cuts that worry many Republicans, but charged that failure to act quickly would "pose a danger to the United States and its security."

"There is no excuse for us to ignore this responsibility and say we'll wait several months," he said, arguing that Russian relations and cooperation from Moscow to rein in Iran's nuclear program could suffer as a result.

Kyl countered that the urgency was political, not one of national security.

"There is not a time pressure to do this now as opposed to two months from now," he said.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillNelson campaign to donate K from Al Franken group to charity 'Kavanaugh' chants erupt at Trump rally in Missouri The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify MORE accused Republicans of "game-playing" and trying to wound President Obama when it came to the delayed ratification of the START treaty.

"There's some game-playing going on with the START treaty, and it's all about politics and it's all about trying to damage the president of the United States," McCaskill said on "Fox News Sunday."

"We've now gone months without any verification of loose nukes," McCaskill said. "Look at Dick Lugar, who I think — instead of playing politics and hiding behind the skirts of Jon Kyl, I hope that the Republicans look at Richard Lugar, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, who has said unequivocally, 'We need to do this START treaty.' "

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Kim, Moon toss ball to Trump in ‘last, best chance’ for Korean peace GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' MORE (R-S.C.), who has previously said he would support the treaty if certain concerns were ironed out, said Sunday on Fox that he wants assurances that the preamble of the START treaty would not allow Russia to withdraw if it disagreed with future missile defense plans.

"Does the preamble to the START treaty allow the Russians to opt out of the treaty if we develop the fourth stage of missile defense, as our Pentagon has said they want to do?" Graham said, to which McCaskill countered that the preamble was not binding.

"Give me a statement from the Russians," Graham said in the heated exchange.

"Look at what's going on in the world right now with North Korea, with Iran," McCaskill said. "And as Lindsey knows ... this treaty is important because our relationship with Russia is important so we can move supplies to our men and women in Afghanistan."

"If the Russians say that they will withdraw from the treaty if we develop strategic missile defense systems, I need to know that," Graham said. "If they say that it doesn't mean that, then I think we're a lot closer to the treaty being enacted."