Senators Landrieu and Enzi
April 30, 1997
in this forum:
Is the pace of the Senate right? Should the Senate have signed the Chemical Weapons Treaty? Is Congress addressing the big issues? What about America's poor? SEN. LANDRIEU: What is the status of the investigation into your election? SEN. ENZI: What does it mean to be the "Cyber Senator"?
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A question from Liz Callander of Cheyenne, WY:
Chemical Weapons Treaty
Why was there such a debate over this treaty? I can understand why we would want to be cautious before entering into such a convention, but to spend weeks contemplating every sentence of the thing seems a little extreme.
Senator Landrieu responds:
The answer to your question is that there was no need for the Senate to spend such an inordinate amount of time going through this treaty with a fine-toothed comb. It was clear from the outset that this convention improved our national security and made the world a safer place. The Republicans, however, decided to hold its passage hostage due to forces within their party who wanted concessions from the White House on unrelated policies such as reorganization of the State Department and United Nations spending. 74 other countries, including our closest allies, ratified the CWC without the prolonged debate and antecedent conditions placed upon it by this Congress. I certainly hope that future treaties are considered in a more responsible manner, with discussion focused squarely on the merits of any measure, rather than using them as political pawns in a partisan game.
Editor's Note: Senator Enzi also responded to Jim Urish of Lander, WY who asked: Senator Enzi; could you explain how you are comfortable with this treaty, especially since your friend and one of our favorite sons, Dick Cheney argued against the ban? Thanks! You're doing a great job representing us there 'in the beltway!'
Senator Enzi responds:
Dear Liz and Jim,
I can understand your view of these recent negotiations over this treaty as being "extreme." You are quite correct; we did spend a long time debating this very contentious issue, but there are some good reasons for this.
The Constitution requires that two thirds of the Senate's one hundred members vote in favor of a treaty before it can be ratified. When the President sent this treaty to the Senate for ratification it was "dead on arrival." It was very long on promises and sentiments and very short on verification and safeguards. Had we voted for ratification in its original form, America would have been much the worse for it. In light of the fact that this is a weapons treaty - effecting the very security of the United States - we wanted to make sure that the final product was up to snuff.
Additionally, the negotiating process is always long and detailed on contentious issues like this. By withholding our support for as long as possible, Republicans were able to keep the President at the negotiating table making concessions that he might otherwise not have made. And indeed, as a result of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, 28 important provisions were added to the Convention that greatly improved it.
To begin with, we were able to tighten the treaty's intelligence sharing procedures to keep classified information out of the wrong hands, maintain the stricter exporting restrictions as outlined in the "Australia Group" protocol, enhance monitoring and verification of compliance, and greatly beef up our military's chemical warfare defensive capabilities. In addition, we received a binding letter from the President committing him to withdrawing from the convention if it leads to the degradation of our chemical weapons defenses, or leads to chemical weapons proliferation.
Yes, these negotiations took time, but the final product was such an improvement over the President's original offering that I feel it was time well spent. I can assure you I am committed to protecting the sovereignty of the United States, and I would not have voted for ratification if I was not satisfied that it was in our nation's best interests to do so. I will keep a vigilant eye on the operation of the CWC and any other international agreement to ensure that our national security is never threatened.