(Says treaty can go to full Senate without Helms' backing)

By David Pitts USIA Staff Writer 10 April 1997

Washington -- There are "more than enough votes" in the U.S. Senate to
ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) if Republican leaders
will allow it to go to the floor for debate, Senator Joseph Biden
(Democrat-Delaware) said April 10.

Speaking at a Capitol Hill news conference at which leaders of
veterans' groups urged Senate ratification of the CWC, Biden said it
would pass even without the support of Senate Majority Leader Trent
Lott (Republican-Mississippi). He said, however, that he hopes Lott
will support the treaty and urged him to do what he can to get the CWC
out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

To date, Committee Chairman Senator Jesse Helms (Republican-North
Carolina) has blocked sending the CWC to the Senate floor because of
outstanding issues that have not been resolved in negotiations with
CWC supporters.

Asked if the CWC could be sent to the floor without Helms' agreement,
Biden said "it can be discharged under committee rules, but there has
to be a significant number of votes on both sides." It is not an easy
thing to do, he added.

Biden said there is a "significant constitutional issue" involved in
the dispute -- whether a Senate committee can decline to send a treaty
to the Senate floor for a vote on ratification. Under the U.S.
Constitution, it is the Senate as a whole that must decide the fate of
a treaty, he stressed.

"No committee has the right to keep the Senate from voting," Biden
said. "It is the U.S. Senate that must ratify, or not ratify, a
treaty. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is not even mentioned
in the Constitution."

As far as the nine (out of 30) issues that have not been resolved are
concerned, Biden proposed sending the CWC to the Senate floor, voting
on it and the 21 issues that have been agreed on, and then having a
vote on each of the nine issues on which, so far, no agreement has
been reached. "I still hope Senator Helms might go along with that,"
he said.

"I think we're at the end of the negotiating period. He (Helms) may
not think so," Biden said, but "I am confident we will not be able to
alleviate his concerns....Senator Lott is going to have to pull the

In comments made earlier April 10, Lott said he plans to bring the
treaty to the Senate floor the week of April 21. But he did not say
how he plans to overcome Helms' opposition.

The leaders of veterans' groups who spoke said the CWC is in the
national interest of the United States, generally, and is,
specifically, in the interest of U.S. military personnel serving
abroad. They also released the text of an April 10 letter to Lott
urging him to bring the treaty up for a floor vote.

"As veterans, we have a basic test for the treaty: will it reduce the
risk of poison gas attacks against our troops? We agree with
Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and
scores of military leaders and national security experts that the CWC
will reduce the likelihood that our soldiers face the threat of
chemical weapons in the future," the letter said.

The letter was signed by David Ovesen, national commander of AMVETS,
James Nier, commander-in-chief of Veterans of Foreign Wars of the
U.S., George Duggins, national president of Vietnam Veterans of
America, Bob Zweiman, national commander of Jewish War Veterans of the
USA, and Jake Alarid, national commander of the American GI Forum of
the United States, a group representing Hispanic veterans.

Senator Arlen Specter (Republican-Pennsylvania) also spoke in favor of
the treaty, saying it is "not perfect," but represents "a big step
forward." He added: "Most objections have been accommodated."

The urgency of sending the CWC to the Senate floor for a vote cannot
be under-estimated, said Senator Jay Rockefeller (Democrat-West
Virginia). He said the April 29 deadline for the United States to
become an initial signatory to the CWC is somewhat misleading. Because
of various procedural matters, the Senate needs to vote by April 19,
he said.