05 October 1999
White House Fights for Senate Ratification of Nuclear Test Ban Treaty(Clinton, top advisors devote week to getting needed votes) (890) By Wendy S. Ross Department of State Washington File Writer Washington -- With just a few days before the Senate is set to vote October 12 on ratification of the long pending Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, President Clinton and his national security team are engaged in a full court press to try to get the 67 votes needed for ratification. "We don't have enough now; I hope we will get them," Clinton told reporters October 4 as he began a meeting with his top advisors to plan a strategy to get Republican Senators to support the treaty. "I will do all I can to get the treaty ratified," he said. The next day, October 5, Clinton told reporters that if the Senate does not ratify the treaty, it would send "a terrible message" to the whole world. It would say to the world, he said, "look, America's not going to test, but if you want to test, go right ahead. We're not interested in leading the world toward nonproliferation anymore." National security officials gave an in-depth briefing to White House reporters on why ratification of the CTBT is important for the world, and White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart also devoted a large part of his daily briefing to the subject. "We need to make the best effort we can to try to convince senators of the value of this treaty and the importance of this treaty," Lockhart said. He pointed out that "we're going to work as hard as we can between now and next Tuesday," when the Senate votes, to try to get Senators now opposed to the treaty to change their minds. Some of those opposed, he said, including Senator John Warner (Republican-Virginia) are being invited to the White House for dinner with Clinton and his top national security advisors October 5. "We will make the case to them. We will make the case in the coming week that the vast majority of scientists believe" that the CTBT should be ratified as do "the vast majority of military experts in this country," Lockhart said. He noted that National Security Advisor Sandy Berger has been meeting with groups of scientists and said there would be an event with the scientists at the White House October 6. "The President will be here tomorrow, surrounded by perhaps the most distinguished group of experts on this subject ever assembled, and others, making the case for why it's in our interest. He will continue talking about this, and we will continue making the case," for ratification, the Press Secretary said. Lockhart pointed out that the treaty had been sitting in the Republican-controlled Senate for two years, and that there had never been a single hearing on it because the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not want one. "Here's an issue that the vast majority of the American public supports," as do "the vast majority of the experts, the vast majority of the scientists," he said. They "say that we don't need to test, that it will make it a safer world if CTBT is ratified." Lockhart noted that in the past, arms control treaties were debated on the Senate floor "between five, 15, 20 days," and not just the one day as is scheduled in this case. In addition, there were dozens of hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and other committee hearings, he said. "And I think to try to do it within a week says something about the case that opponents have against the treaty." Asked why Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Republican-Missisippi) had decided to bring the CTBT to a vote on the Senate floor, Lockhart said the Majority Leader "has his own reasons which he can articulate for why this is being done in a way that no other Senate Majority Leader has ever handled a major arms control treaty. He can articulate them." Opponents of the treaty in the Senate, Lockhart said, basically accept the fact that the United States does not need to test because the U.S. has a stockpile stewardship program that allows it to keep its superiority, to keep its deterrent without testing. But if the treaty is not ratified, he said, they are also saying that "we shouldn't do anything to restrain China. We shouldn't do anything to restrain Russia. We shouldn't do anything to restrain India. We shouldn't do anything to restrain Pakistan." Ending nuclear tests has been one of Clinton's top goals as President. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was negotiated in the Geneva Conference on Disarmament between January 1994 and August 1996. The United Nations General Assembly voted on September 10, 1996 to adopt the treaty by a vote of 158 in favor, 3 opposed and 5 abstentions. President Clinton was the first world leader to sign the CTBT on September 24, 1996. One hundred fifty one other countries have now signed it, and 41, including many allies of the U.S, have ratified it. "The question now," Clinton said at a Rose Garden event July 20 of this year, "is whether we will adopt or whether we will lose a verifiable treaty that will bar other nations from testing nuclear weapons."