USIS Washington File

06 October 1999

Clinton Continues to Fight for Senate Approval of Test Ban Treaty

(Discussions continue on Capitol Hill about putting vote off) (1030)
By Wendy S. Ross
Department of State Washington File Correspondent

Washington -- President Clinton made an impassioned plea for Senate
ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) at an October
6 event in the East Room of the White House as debate swirled on
Capitol Hill on whether the Senate leadership would postpone the vote,
scheduled for October 12 by the Senate Majority Leader.

"From the time of President Eisenhower the United States has led the
world in the cause of non-proliferation," Clinton said. "We have new
serious proliferation threats that our predecessors have not faced,
and it is all the more imperative that we do everything we possibly
can to minimize the risks our children will face.

"I thank the Senators who are here with us today and pray they can
swell their ranks by next week," the President said.

Attending the White House event were proponents of the treaty
including Nobel Laureate physicists, U.S. nuclear laboratory heads,
senators, and arms control experts from the current and former

In addition to Clinton, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General
John Shalikashvili and former Senator and astronaut John Glenn were
among the group addressing the gathering.

"It is essential that the United States stay in the non-proliferation
lead in a comprehensive way," the President said.

He asked: are we better off with or without the treaty? "The best way
to constrain the danger of nuclear proliferation is to stop other
countries from testing nuclear weapons. That is what this test ban
treaty will do," he said.

"The argument, it seems to me, doesn't hold water, that somehow we
would be better off," without this treaty.

"This is a tough fight without much time," Clinton said. This treaty,
he pointed out, cannot go into effect until the United States and
other identified nations ratify it.

Both India and Pakistan have said they will sign the CTBT, Clinton
said. But he asked, if the Senate defeats it, will these two South
Asian nations sign?

Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart and State
Department Spokesman James Rubin told reporters that until Senate
Majority Leader Trent Lott, Republican, Mississippi, and Senate
Minority Leader Tom Daschle, Democrat, South Dakota, work out an
agreement on putting off a vote on the CTBT, the Clinton
administration will assume that a vote will take place next week.

But both spokesmen said it appears that many Senators -- both
Republican and Democratic -- would prefer putting off a vote on the
CTBT, until there has been more discussion of it.

Lockhart and Rubin said the Republican-led Senate has not allowed
enough time for Senators to debate a subject as important and
technologically complicated as the CTBT.

"We have indicated all the way through this process over the last
three or four days ... that we don't think that the process is
adequate for a treaty of this importance and of this complexity,"
Lockhart said.

It's a process, he said, that no one is happy with. "But the process
right now is the process and the leaders of the Senate, the majority
and the minority, are in discussions to talk about the process and
we'll see where that goes."

"We've made the case all along that we thought that eight or nine days
was inadequate for a real debate where Senators would have the chance
to be briefed, to look at the issues, to understand the complexity of
the issues. We continue to believe that to be the case."

Lott scheduled a Senate vote on ratification a little more than a week
after he put the historic arms control issue on the Senate calendar.

The treaty was signed by President Clinton in 1996, but since then
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Jesse Helms, Republican from
North Carolina, had kept it bottled up in his committee.

Daschle told reporters that Clinton "supports the effort to postpone a
vote until such time as we have the votes."

Clinton "has made it clear that he wants this treaty passed, first and
foremost. He feels strongly that this is one of the most important
messages we can send around the world about nuclear testing and
nuclear proliferation, and the sooner we do it, the better," Daschle

"Short of that, if we don't have the votes now, I think the President
feels equally as concerned, as many of us do, that the implications
for defeat of the treaty would be extremely problematic not only for
this Presidency, but probably for the next one," he said.

Rubin said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright sent a letter October
5 to all members of the Senate urging their support for ratification
of the treaty. The letter "goes through the reasons why this treaty is
in the interest of the United States and why failure to ratify this
treaty could harm our efforts to promote nonproliferation around the
world," he said.

Regarding the schedule in the Senate, "we have to operate on the
assumption that this treaty is going to be voted on next Tuesday,"
Rubin said. He noted that Secretary Albright is scheduled to testify
October 7 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

On October 6, Defense Secretary Bill Cohen and Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff General Henry H. Shelton testified in support of the
treaty before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Clinton invited a group of Senators to a White House dinner October 5
to discuss with them the importance of the treaty, as well as what
would be the devastating effects if it were defeated, said Lockhart.

"I think the upshot of last night's dinner here at the White House
with Republicans and Democrats was a general consensus that this
process is inadequate," the White House Press Secretary said. "But the
process is the process and the Senate has put it in place," he added.
"The vote is set for next Tuesday, and we're going to work as hard as
we can between now and next Tuesday to get as many votes as we can."