|TABLING THE TREATY|
October 12, 1999
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Senate overwhelmingly
rejected the treaty late Wednesday, falling 19 votes short of the 67
needed to endorse the nuclear test ban.
GWEN IFILL: We are joined now by Republican Senators John Warner of Virginia and Jon Kyl of Arizona who oppose the treaty, and Democratic Senators Joseph Biden of Delaware and Patrick Moynihan of New York, who support it. Senator Warner, Senator Daschle said unforeseen circumstances, something you just heard Senator Lott warn against. You in a letter and some of our colleagues this afternoon have suggested that there is room for this to be delayed and not to come up again. Do you have a deal?
SEN. JOHN WARNER: The Senate had an excellent day of debate, and I commend the number of Senators who are joining in this. We've had good, strong leadership from Senator Lott, Senator Daschle. They are continuing to explore options. And I'm pleased to say that my two colleagues to my right here, the two Democrats, have joined me and Senator Lugar in writing a letter to both leaders saying that we would support an initiative if they join to delay this treaty into the 107th Congress, meaning that the current Congress will not deal with it in terms of the final vote and that we will let a new Congress take a fresh look at it and a new president. To me, the national security interests absolutely dictate that result.
GWEN IFILL: But Senator Warner, have you heard from your Republican leader, Mr. Lott, that he would accept the compromise that you suggest?
SEN. JOHN WARNER: I think it's important that the letter, which the three of us and Senator Lugar have just put out...we use different phraseology in there. We simply said we do not, at this time, foresee any circumstances, but we conclude by saying you know, the Senate historically has to number one, put the nation's business always first, irrespective of whatever is happening in the world or here at home; and number two, that if it's the Senate judgment, at some point in time, that because of circumstances of a compelling nature, of foreign incident, that's the classification that we basically use as justification for the Senate bringing it up before the 107th Congress. So I think we've gone and tightened this situation up. The letter has now been distributed to colleagues. The phones are ringing. And many colleagues on both sides are anxious to join in this bipartisan effort.
GWEN IFILL: Senator Kyl, you did not sign this letter. It's clear that you would like to kill this treaty outright. Do you find it at all a middle ground that you could accept?
|The nuclear test ban debate|
SEN. JON KYL: I think it's important to appreciate why the treaty will go down to defeat if there is a vote. It's fatally flawed in a variety of ways. It's not enforceable, it's not verifiable, and it risks our nuclear stockpile. I believe that voting on the treaty and defeating it would send the best message possible, and that is that the United States will insist on minimal provisions in sensible arms control treaties and that we will... that the Senate will insist on its co-equal responsibility of being a check on an administration that negotiates a treaty that doesn't meet these minimal standards.
GWEN IFILL: Senator Kyl, I'm just trying for a little clarity here. Do you think that Senator Lott will support your position?
SEN. JON KYL: I think, as Senator Warner said, Senator Lott is trying his very best to accommodate all of the possible positions here. But at the end of the day, there is a unanimous consent agreement entered into by all 100 Senators to have a vote on this treaty. I believe that would be the best thing for us to do because it would strengthen the hand of our negotiators when they go back to the table and seek to get the provisions in the treaty that they agreed could be taken out. This administration, incidentally, was strongly in favor of a treaty that allowed us to get out of it after ten years and did not require a zero threshold -- but unfortunately, caved in to people around the world who demanded a zero threshold and a treaty in perpetuity. We would have the opportunity to go back and renegotiate some of those things, as well as the verification and enforceability issues.
SEN. JOHN WARNER: Let me interrupt. There's been no unanimous consent today. It's the unanimous consent that set up the structure by which these important hearings and debates have taken place.
SEN. JON KYL: That's correct.
GWEN IFILL: Senator Biden, you spent a good deal of your day today on the Senate floor praising Senator Kyl, for instance, for his incredible intelligence and legal mind. But you couldn't disagree with him more on this.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: That's because I have greater intelligence...
GWEN IFILL: Is that what it is? Do you regret at all bringing this measure to the floor - accepting Senator Lott's challenge to bring this to the floor -- when it's clear you never had the votes?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: Well, I didn't bring this measure to the floor. The request in my resolution was that we have hearings. It was never a request for a vote. That was a misstatement of what -- the resolution that prompted this whole process. You know, we can go back and determine whether or not the leadership should have accepted this configuration of how we get to here or not. But I think that's basically useless. You are about to have a piece on Pakistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. India has nuclear weapons. We have been trying to get them to sign this comprehensive test ban treaty. Whether or not they do that will depend a lot on what we do. I'm not suggesting that failing to sign this caused the coup, but I am suggesting the world is very fluid out there. At this moment, to reject this treaty... by the way, it is verifiable. It's as verifiable as Ronald Reagan's INF Treaty -- which we all signed - I didn't hear this stuff when that treaty was up. It is enforceable. But that's not the purpose of the debate here. The question we...at least three of us agree that it would be in the national interest to not vote on it. You know, Gwen, I find it fascinating. I doubt whether if I had said to you or anyone else who follows this - the foreign policy debates of this country, if any President of the United States came along in the midst of a consideration of something that affected the national security and strategic interest of the United States and said "I ask you to delay a vote on the thing that I negotiated," it's beyond my comprehension that any Senate wouldn't say "all right, Mr. President, we'll go along with that." He's not asking them to vote for it. He thinks it's a good treaty. I do. Pat does. All he's saying is let's delay the vote on this. I don't know what possible rationale could be applied to not respond to a President asking that. And we've asked that as well.
SEN. JOHN WARNER: And we have responded.
|Finding an acceptable middle ground|
GWEN IFILL: Senator Moynihan, it is clear that you spent a great deal of time attempting to find the middle ground here. Assuming for a moment that Senator Daschle's letter and Senator Warner's letter that you signed is accepted as the middle ground that can be found on this, don't you think there's a danger in the White House basically saying with a wink and a nod okay, that's fine, just delay it and it won't come up again and trying not to send a signal that they're abandoning this altogether?
SEN. DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN: Well, the Senate's job is to continue hearings. You heard Senator Warner said he wants to hold hearings. We haven't had enough consideration of this treaty. There are changes that could be made. We can find a way to bring Senator Kyl around. He is, as Senator Biden said, exceptionally intelligent. It's an exceptionally dangerous world. We don't want to lose this option.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: When we did this, by the way, in the chemical weapons treaty -
GWEN IFILL: Senator Biden, yes.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: -- and we brought it back up, we did this in the chemical weapons treaty. We ended up with 27 or 29 conditions attached to it and got overwhelming support in the United States Senate for it after it had been declared dead and pulled down.
GWEN IFILL: But, the key here, Senator Warner, and tell me if I'm wrong, is that you do not want this to come up again. You do not want to see this again before the 2000 election, is that right?
SEN. JOHN WARNER: In this Congress. That's correct. Very explicit has been my statement -- do not bring it up again in this Congress.
GWEN IFILL: Why not?
|A treaty beyond party politics?|
SEN. JOHN WARNER: Before my committee, testimony from the intelligence community to the effect that we need, and in our own intelligence committee, more time to make the analysis of whether we could verify certain provisions of this treaty as it relates to nations it might want to violate the treaty. That's key. That work won't be finished until next year. We're facing our constitutional elections. Is that a year to submit a treaty of this importance to the risks and the unknown dynamics of a presidential election year? And then, to cap it off, none of us... and I've been 20-some years in the Senate-- could have foreseen in the course of last week's hearings the extraordinary courage of so many former public servants -- six or eight former secretaries of defense divided on the issue, former secretaries of state divided on the issue -- honest, conscientious, well-experienced persons who had the same responsibilities as the current secretary of state and the current secretary of defense. And the capstone came from the testimony of the lab directors -- men who have spent their career developing nuclear weapons, preserving the stockpile, testing the stockpile, and any reasonable individual looking at their testimony would have to say there is some doubt in their mind that the substitute for actual testing; namely, a program of scientific computer testing will be ready and in place in perhaps... for a period of time of five, ten, maybe fifteen years out, leaving a possibility that some nation could question the credibility of our stockpile and devise its foreign policy and worst yet, its aggression against us because of those doubts. Let us conclude the stockpile today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future is credible and safe. We're talking about ten or fifteen years out under a treaty that's to be in perpetuity and that's what troubles us.
GWEN IFILL: My apologies, Senator Warner for interrupting. Senator Kyl, you have felt this is something which shouldn't go through. What if all these efforts to find middle ground collapse between now and tomorrow? What if, indeed, this came to a vote and it was voted down -- isn't there a possibility this could come back to haunt you as a campaign issue for the other side next year?
SEN. JON KYL: Gwen, I don't think any of us here look at this politically or as a campaign issue. We are seriously doing our best. I appreciate the compliments from my colleague, and I'll throw the compliments right back. We've debated the merits of this and whatever differences we have, I believe that they are heartfelt differences of opinion about what is in the best interest of the future of the country. My view is that... the reason the treaty is opposed by so many people and will fail if it's voted on is that there are serious flaws in it. We have an opportunity to say let's go back. And if you really believe this is the way to proceed with arms control, try to fix those things that are so flawed in this particular treaty. And I might add that defeating the treaty today does not prevent any member of the Senate from bringing it up in the future again. So, I really do disagree with those who say that this would send a horrible message, and it would be the end of the world. No, it's just the United States Senate doing its job as a coequal partner with the President of the United States.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: Gwen, one of the important things is every other major treaty we've had, we've had weeks of hearings. We have had in-depth debate. We've gone on for eight, nine, ten days debating it. One of the reasons I think that there is such doubt on the Republican side is I quite frankly, and on the Democratic side, to the extent it exists...is that we have not had thorough debate about this. John Kyl and I could debate the verification issue I think in an illuminating way for several hours. He and I both know. We have studied it thoroughly, as have my colleagues, because it's our job, we're on the committees that do that. But I would lay you eight to five that 50 percent of our colleagues have not had the chance to spend more than an hour on this treaty.
GWEN IFILL: Based on your political experience about the way these things work on Capitol Hill, I'd like each of you gentlemen briefly to just tell me, do you think we will end up having a vote on this tomorrow or will there be a compromise announced?
SEN. JOHN WARNER: I think the leaders are working very diligently this evening. We've all been with them within the hour, so... and I'm confident that they will come up with an option hopefully for a delay such that this will not be taken up in the next Congress but will be looked at by a new Congress and new President. There is no rush, no rush whatsoever in my judgment, to go to this treaty and vote it down. And you know, gentlemen, the votes are not there to pass it. And that's why you have joined me in a conscientious way, because it's in our national security interest not to vote it down. We may have a difference, my good friend and I, but let me come back to Senator Biden...
GWEN IFILL: Just a moment. I'd just like to ask Senator Biden the same question.
SEN. JOHN WARNER: But let me just finish.
GWEN IFILL: Will there be a vote or a deal tomorrow?
SEN. JOHN WARNER: Let me just finish. I think we've lad very good hearings. We've spent a lot of time on this treaty. And this period of time was agreed upon by our two leaders three weeks ago.
GWEN IFILL: Thank you. Senator Biden?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: I've been here longer than any of these guys. And it seems to me that we are in a path of unintended consequences. I wouldn't dare guess what the outcome will be.
GWEN IFILL: Senator Kyl?
SEN. JON KYL: I don't believe the Democratic side is willing to give the kind of assurances that would be necessary to Republicans that it would not come up in the election year next year in order for us to avoid the vote. And Senator Warner is right. There have been extensive hearings on this and, as a matter of fact, more time on the floor, allotted for debate and amendments on this treaty than any other treaty in recent memory in the Senate. Also, to correct one thing, I believe there have been five treaties defeated since the Treaty of Versailles by the U.S. Senate. It is true, however, that none of them were of the consequence of that treaty.
GWEN IFILL: Senator Moynihan, you get the final word.
SEN. DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN: Pray.
GWEN IFILL: That's a good word. Thank you very much, gentlemen. I know you have some work to do this evening. Thank you for taking time with us.