October 13, 1999

Biden on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: I Am Outraged

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., released the following statement as the Senate closed debate on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty:

Let me put it as simply as I can. I am not only disappointed by today's vote; I am outraged.

Forcing a vote on this treaty, when the President had asked that the vote be delayed, when a majority Senators believe it should be delayed, is irresponsible, short-sighted, and partisan.

What this proves is that national security has become just another political issue. And you can forget about stopping at the water's edge.

I am not going to rehash all of the technical issues. We had a debate. It was too short, but it was a debate on the substantive issues in this treaty. Frankly, I think we won hands down. I don't think the opponents of the Treaty made their case. I believe we answered all of their arguments in the short time we had available. I believe this treaty is solidly in the interests of U.S. national security.

But even if my colleagues still have doubts, there is another way out. We could send this treaty back to the Foreign Relations Committee for hearings.

Many of us who support the treaty favor that option. Why? Because we are confident that in the future we will ratify this treaty. And recommittal signals that the United States will maintain its leadership on nuclear nonproliferation. If we take that option we are not losing anything we are right where we were before this debate began a little over a week ago.

But my colleagues on the other side have decided we are not going to choose that option. That choice should be disturbing to any American who cares about reducing the risk of nuclear war, or maintaining American leadership in the world.

Let's be clear about the implications of this vote. When we reject this treaty, we are rejecting American leadership in the world, and embracing Fortress America. We're embracing a return to nuclear testing around the world, a nuclear free for all. I can tell you one thing. Once that happens, we really will need to build a missile defense system. Ironically, it will make it a less reliable system.

This is nothing but isolationism, and know-nothingism, a turning away from U.S. leadership in the post Cold war era.

It's fascinating. The other party has spent the better part of a week demanding that we take this treaty off the table during an election year. Who are they kidding?

If Republicans can offer nothing better than what a columnist today called "drive-by foreign policy," then we Democrats will have to define the agenda for America's role in the new century. Let's have at it.

Presidential and Congressional elections should be decided on big issues important issues what is more important that debating our strategic rationale in the next century.

We may not vote on the treaty in the Senate next year, but it will not go away. I can guarantee we will discuss it around the country. We will explain to the American people exactly what happened. We will bring it up again in the next Congress, and we will pass it. I assure you we will be back.

Prime Minister Blair, President Chirac, and Chancellor Schroeder understand that this vote represents a minority of the Senate and a very small minority of the American people. To our allies and the American people, who strongly support this treaty, let me assure them that will refrain from testing and will urge others to do so. This fight is not over.

The Senate made a choice today, a fateful choice, perhaps the most serious choice we have been faced with since I have been in the Senate. It affects not only what happens in India and Pakistan, and China, it affects my grandchildren -- your grandchildren.

Next year, we will ask the American people to choose. Do you want to continue with the policy of arms control that has kept us safe from nuclear weapons for two generations, or do you want to go down the path of isolationism, nuclear testing, and a free for all in the proliferation of dangerous weapons?

I am eager for that debate.