|NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY|
October 7, 1999
President Clinton told reporters Thursday the United States has a "moral responsibility for future generations" in an attempt to garner Senate support for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
-- Posted Thursday, 2:00pm E.D.T.
But Republicans continue to balk and told Clinton he must ask for a postponement of the vote in writing to prevent the treaty's expected rejection next week.
Clinton said he would accept a postponement, but will not offer a written request.
The opposing sides in the Senate, divided in near-party line coalitions,
have deadlocked on the issue and concede that vote totals are unlikely
to change despite further debate. A two-thirds vote will ratify the
treaty, but about 40 senators are ready to vote it down.
Clinton has made adoption of the treaty a priority, but Republican
senators have blocked it from a vote for two years. This week, Republicans
brought it forward without warning.
"After two long years of inaction, one week is very little time
for considered action," the President said Wednesday.
But Republicans, including Sen. Jesse Helms, N.C., chairman of the
Foreign Relations Committee told reporters, "We're ready to vote."
Clinton vowed he and his administration will continue to try to cultivate
support. Tuesday, Secretary of Defense William Cohen, the only Republican
member of Clinton's cabinet, was trying to sell the treaty to his fellow
"I think it's going to be a very uphill struggle but there are
serious consequences in the event this treaty is voted upon and rejected,"
Cohen said on the
Cohen opposed the treaty when he represented Maine in the Senate. But
he said he changed his mind because "the threat of nuclear missile
proliferation was more acute today than it was in 1992, and accordingly
the importance of strengthening nonproliferation has increased."
The treaty, signed by 154 nations, would broadly prohibit underground
testing of nuclear warheads. But only Britain and France -- two of seven
acknowledged nuclear powers in the world -- have ratified it. Republicans
believe ending underground testing only puts the U.S. in danger as nations
such as India, Pakistan, Iran and China develop weapons.
Without a postponement, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the treaty next Tuesday or Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., are reportedly trying to negotiate the terms of a delay.
Currently, the U.S. has a moratorium on underground nuclear testing, performing computerized tests instead. The moratorium, however, is not permanent.