Lugar Takes the Floor

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Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana has taken the Senate floor to deliver a 45-minute speech urging his colleagues to pass the New Start treaty. Close followers of Congress know that he rarely takes the floor for anything, leaving it largely to his more theatrical colleagues. In this case he is defending a treaty he took months to study before supporting and which he has since vigorously defended, rallying a formidable contingent of backers. He listed them:

To date, every Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense who has expressed a public opinion about the New START Treaty has counseled in favor of ratification.  This has included ten Republicans and five Democrats.  All five living Americans who served Ronald Reagan as Defense Secretary, Secretary of State, or White House Chief of Staff have endorsed the New START Treaty.  The list of endorsers includes President George H.W. Bush, George Shultz, Jim Baker, Jim Schlesinger, Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, Howard Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Frank Carlucci.

It has been a joy to watch Lugar go up against Jon Kyl of Arizona over this treaty. Lugar is the respected voice of the GOP in the Senate on foreign policy. Kyl is one of the most effective back-room operators in the chamber since Lyndon Johnson. Both were among the ten best Senators we identified in 2006, and their battle over this treaty is one for the books. It looks as if Lugar has the upper hand at the moment, having won over John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who had withheld support for months, but voted to allow the treaty to come to the floor. But tomorrow morning there will be a key vote on amending the treaty, and a potentially drawn out battle over the accompanying bill that represents the Senate’s advice and consent of it. Part of what makes the fight particularly interesting is that Senate-ratified treaties are increasingly rare these days, as many international agreements go through both chambers instead. The next 24 hours will be fun for veteran Senate watchers.