Remarks by Senator Tom Daschle Urging the Senate
to Consider the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Congressional Record -- 106th Congress
September 23, 1999

THE COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY (Senate - September 23, 1999)

[Page: S11354] GPO's PDF

Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, two years ago today, on September 23, 1997, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was read for the first time and referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Unfortunately, instead of coming to the Senate floor to commend the Senate for ratifying the CTBT or for taking steps toward that end, I must come to point out the Senate has done absolutely nothing on CTBT. Not a hearing, not a vote. And I must confess up front, I do this with a sense of confusion, disappointment, and profound regret over the Republican majority's inaction on this important treaty since its submission to the Senate.

The Republican majority's unwillingness to permit the Senate to take even a single step forward on a treaty to ban all nuclear testing has me and many observers confused for a variety of reasons. First, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has been enthusiastically and unequivocally endorsed by our senior military leaders, both current and former. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated `the Joint Chiefs of Staff support ratification of this treaty.' The current chairman and fellow service chiefs are not alone in their support for CTBT. In fact, the four previous occupants of the chairman's seat have endorsed this treaty. Former Chairmen General John Shalikashvili, General Colin Powell, Admiral William Crowe, and General David Jones issued a statement on the treaty and the additional safeguards proposed by the President. Their statement concluded `with these safeguards, we support Senate approval of the CTB treaty.'

Second, several Presidents, both Republican and Democratic, have supported a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing. In fact, Presidents as far back as President Eisenhower have worked to make this prohibition a reality. On May 29, 1961, President Eisenhower said the failure to achieve a test ban `would have to be classed as the greatest disappointment of any administration, of any decade, of any party.' Similar statements have been made by Presidents in every subsequent decade. And if this Congress fails to act, Presidents in the next millennium unfortunately will be uttering comparable remarks.

Third, the overwhelming majority of the American people, approximately 82 percent, have indicated they endorse immediate Senate approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Although opponents of the treaty argue support is limited to just Democrats or liberals, opinion polls point to a different conclusion. CTBT support spans the entire political spectrum. For example, among those who identify themselves as Republicans, 80 percent support the treaty and 79 percent of those who characterize themselves as `conservative Republicans' believe the Senate should ratify the CTBT. As far as geographic limitations, the polls show CTBT support knows no boundaries. From coast to coast and all points in between, the vast majority of Americans support this treaty. Let me provide the Senate with a few examples that back up this statement. In Tennessee, 78 percent support the treaty. In Kansas, 79 percent. In Washington, 82 percent. In Oregon, 83 percent. The story is similar in every other state in the Union.

With these facts as a backdrop, I think it is easy to understand why I and many others are confused that, in the two years since the President submitted the CTBT treaty, the Republicans have chosen to do nothing. CTBT is vigorously endorsed by our most senior military leaders, past and present. Senate Republicans are unmoved. Republican and Democratic Presidents since Eisenhower have strongly backed the CTBT. Yet, Senate Republicans choose to do nothing. Finally, over 80 percent of our constituents, from all parts of the political spectrum and all regions of the country, have asked us to ratify the CTBT. And the response of Senate Republicans? Not a hearing, not a vote. Nothing but silence and inaction.

I mentioned at the outset that I am also disappointed by the course Senate Republicans have pursued. The reason for my disappointment is that Senate Republicans have permitted a small number of members from within their ranks to manipulate Senate rules and procedures to prevent the Senate from acting on the CTBT. I recognize these few members are well within their rights as Senators to use the rules in this manner. Under Senate rules, a small group can thwart or delay action on even the most vital pieces of legislation. This has been proven time and again since the Senate's founding. In more recent times, we have seen the same handful of Senators on the far right of the political spectrum repeatedly resort to these tactics to prevent the Senate from acting expeditiously on arms control treaties.

However, in many of these previous instances, a number of Republicans eventually decided to call an end to the political gamesmanship of their more conservative colleagues. They decided that this nation's national interests superseded the political interests of a few Senators at the far end of the political spectrum. They decided that the full Senate should be allowed to work its will on matters of national security. In short, they decided that politics stopped at the water's edge. I am disappointed that in this particular instance, two years have elapsed and I see no such movement within the Republican caucus. Two years is too long. I would hope we would soon see some leadership on the Republican side of the aisle to break the current impasse and allow the full Senate to act on the CTBT.

Finally, I also indicated I deeply regret the Senate's failure to act. While waiting for the United States Senate to ratify the CTBT, we have seen nearly 40 other nations do so. We have witnessed two additional countries test nuclear weapons while the intelligence community tells us several others continue developing such weapons. And in a few short weeks, we will observe the nations that have ratified the treaty convene a conference to discuss how to facilitate the treaty's entry into force --a conference that limits participation only to those nations that have ratified the treaty. If the United States is to play a leadership role on nuclear testing, convince others to forgo nuclear testing, and actively participate in efforts to implement the treaty, the United States Senate must exercise some leadership itself and give the CTBT a fair hearing and a vote. That effort must begin today.