Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Republican-Mississippi) announced
on the Senate floor the afternoon of April 24 that he would support
the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) when the Senate votes on it late
in the day.

"I have decided to vote in support of the Senate giving its advise and
consent of the Chemical Weapons Convention," Lott said in a Senate
speech hours before the decisive vote. The United States will be
"marginally better off with than without it," he told the Senate, and
"there will be real and lasting consequences to the United States if
we do not ratify." He said that "in a very real sense, the credibility
of commitments made by two Presidents of our country -- one
Republican, one Democrat -- is at stake."

Lott's decision came after last-minute assurances from President
Clinton to the Majority Leader in the form of a letter, that Lott
released publicly.

Lott called "unprecedented" what he considers to be the "ironclad
commitment from the President of the United States to the Senate" that
he is prepared to withdraw from the Chemical Weapons Convention if
other signatories were to use its provisions to justify actions that
jeopardized U.S. national security.

Lott said he considers the presidential pledge "a major and dramatic
move in the right direction."

The Majority Leader announced his decision after the Senate had voted
71-29 to remove from the ratification measure one of the so called
"killer provisions" that would have conditioned U.S. ratification on
acceptance of the treaty by nations that have refused to join,
including Libya, North Korea and Iraq.

Although only a simple majority was needed to reject that provision,
the margin exceeded the two-thirds needed for ratification of the

Lott voted in the minority on the issue, but immediately after that
vote announced his decision to vote for ratification of the treaty.

Two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 Senators, must vote consent to
ratification for the United States to be able to participate in the
pact. Since all 45 Senate Democrats are expected to support it,
President Clinton must win support from 22 Republican Senators.

However, as of early April 24, only 11 Republicans had announced they
would back it. However, the convention gained one new Republican
backer during the day, when freshman Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska
announced his support in a floor speech in which he said the
President's letter had influenced his decision.

"This treaty is much improved from the form in which it was first
submitted to the Senate," Hagel said. "The balance has tipped strongly
to ratification."

A number of Republican Senators have claimed that unscrupulous foreign
countries could use certain provisions of the Convention to justify
selling chemical warfare materials and technology to so-called "rogue"
states like Libya and North Korea.

On April 23, former Senate Majority Leader and 1996 Republican
presidential candidate Bob Dole announced his support of the pact in a
ceremony at the White House with the President and former Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell.