Senator Bidenís Remarks Urging the Senate to "Stop Playing Politics with Our National Security: Ratify the Test-Ban Treaty"

Congressional Record - 106th Congress
September 24, 1999


[Page: S11426] GPO's PDF

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, three years ago today, the United States led the world in signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. Since then, 152 countries have followed our lead; and 45 of them, including Great Britain and France, have ratified the Treaty.

Two years and two days ago, the President of the United States submitted the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, plus six safeguards, to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification. Since then, the Senate has done nothing.

That is an outrage. We--who are rightly called the world's greatest deliberative body--have been unwilling or unable to perform our constitutional duty regarding this major treaty.

Some of my colleagues have principled objections to this treaty. I respect their convictions. I have responded on this floor to many of their objections, as have my colleagues from Pennsylvania, North and South Dakota, Michigan and New Mexico.

Now it is time, however, for the Senate to do its duty. Administration officials, current and former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and eminent scientists are prepared to testify in favor of the Test-Ban Treaty. We, in turn, are prepared to make our case in formal Senate debate on a resolution of ratification.

It is high time that the Republican leadership of this body agreed to schedule Senate debate and a vote on ratification. It is utterly irresponsible for the Republican leadership to hold this treaty hostage to other issues, as it has for two years.

The arguments in favor of ratifying the Test-Ban Treaty are well-known.

It will reinforce nuclear non-proliferation by reassuring non-nuclear weapons states that states with nuclear weapons will be unable to develop and confidently deploy new types of nuclear weapons.

It will keep non-nuclear weapon states from deploying sophisticated nuclear weapons, even if they are able to develop designs for such weapons.

It will improve our ability to detect any nuclear weapons tests, with other countries paying 75% of the bill for the International Monitoring System.

U.S. ratification will encourage India and Pakistan to sign and ratify the Test-Ban Treaty--one of the few steps back from the nuclear brink that they may be willing to take, without a settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

U.S. ratification will encourage Russia, China and other states to ratify.

Our ratification will maintain U.S. leadership on non-proliferation, as we approach the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference next April. That U.S. leadership is vital to keeping non-nuclear weapons states committed to nuclear non-proliferation.

Equally important are the safeguards that the President has proposed, to ensure that U.S. adherence to the Treaty will always be consonant with our national security:

A: The conduct of a Science Based Stockpile Stewardship program to ensure a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons in the active stockpile. . . .

B: The maintenance of modern nuclear laboratory facilities and programs . . . which will attract, retain, and ensure the continued application of our human scientific resources to those programs. . . .

C: The maintenance of the basic capability to resume nuclear test activities. . . .

D: Continuation of a comprehensive research and development program to improve our . . . monitoring capabilities. . . .

E: The continuing development of a broad range of intelligence . . . capabilities and operations to ensure accurate and comprehensive information on worldwide nuclear . . . programs.

F: . . . if the President of the United States is informed by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy (DOE) . . . that a high level of confidence in . . . a nuclear weapon type which the two Secretaries consider to be critical to our nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, the President, in consultation with Congress, would be prepared to withdraw from the CTBT . . . in order to conduct whatever testing might be required.

Thus, if nuclear weapons testing should ever be required to maintain the U.S. nuclear deterrent, then we will test.

Thanks in part to these safeguards, our senior national security officials support ratification of the Test-Ban Treaty. These officials include not only cabinet members such as former Senator Cohen, but also the directors of our National Laboratories and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty is vital to our national security. If the Senate dallies, India and Pakistan could fail to cap their nuclear weapons race; China could resume testing, to make better use of stolen U.S. nuclear secrets; and non-nuclear weapons states could give up on non-proliferation.

In the coming days, therefore, several of us will bring up in a more formal form the need for Senate action on this Treaty. I urge all my colleagues to support that effort.

Whatever our views on the Test-Ban Treaty, it is a national security issue. Let us agree that it is not to be held hostage to other issues. Let us agree that it is not just one more football in the Washington game of `politics as usual.'

If the Republican leadership does not handle this Treaty responsibly, I have no doubt how the issue will play out in next year's elections. The latest national poll shows overwhelming public support for the Test-Ban Treaty: 82 percent in favor and only 14 percent opposed.

Those results go beyond party lines. Fully 80 percent of Republicans--and even 79 percent of conservative Republicans--say that they support the Test-Ban Treaty.

Republicans may appeal to the far right by calling for a return to the Cold War of nuclear testing. Bob Dole did that in 1996 on the Chemical Weapons Convention; but he lost. Then he took the responsible stand.

This time, let's skip the politics. Let's do our job--with hearings, debate, and a timely vote, at least before next April's Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference.

We can address the Test-Ban Treaty responsibly. It isn't hard, and the American people know that. It's time the Senate did what Nike says: `Just do it.'