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National Defense AuthorizatIon Act for Fiscal Year 2007

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Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2007 -- (Senate - June 15, 2006)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise today for two purposes: one is to speak against the Santorum amendment relating to Iran--the Iran sanctions--and, two, to offer an amendment relating to the negotiations that are now underway by the President of the United States.

Let's cut right to it, if I may. Are we going to stand aside while the President of the United States of America is trying to stop the development of a nuclear bomb in Iran? The President of the United States of America has made a judgment--I would argue, finally, but he has made a judgment--that the best way to keep the worst thing from happening is to cooperate with our friends to put pressure on the bad guy.

What do I mean by that? The President of the United States, I assume at the urging of the Secretary of State--although it is not relevant, actually--the President of the United States took a more aggressive course about a month ago in attempting to stop the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon, a weapon that, if developed in conjunction with a missile, could change, in a material way, the dynamics in the Middle East and particularly relating to our interests, notwithstanding the fact that it might not be able to strike the United States--a development that if it occurred would almost assuredly put great pressure on the Sunni Arabs in the region, who have lots of money, to join with possibly Egypt or another country to develop a Sunni bomb. This is not a good thing.

So the President, in conjunction with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, our three largest European allies, along with China, and Russia, has agreed to and has been sitting down and making a specific proposal, which the President of the United States has pledged the United States to, in order to both entice as well as dissuade the Iranians from pursuing their course. There are two pieces to it. One, it says to the Iranians: If you cooperate and verifiably cease and desist, we, the United States, the three European countries, China, and Russia, will move forward with the following incentives to move you closer to the family of nations as a responsible nation. And there are a set of very specific incentives that the President of the United States of America has signed on to--quote, an ``offer,'' if you will, to the Iranian Government.

It also says, as was reported in the New York Times and the Washington Post today, that the Chinese, as well as the Americans and Russians, have communicated a second piece of information to the Iranians: If you do not cease and desist, these bad things are going to happen to you, and we are all jointly--jointly--going to impose them on you.

I think that was a stroke of significant diplomacy on the part of the President, which basically, as I understand it, the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese said: Will you join us in some of the carrots? And the President, as I understand it, said: Yes, if you join me in the strikes. It is carrots and sticks.

I know of no way to avoid one of two alternatives: one is the resignation to the acceptance of an Iranian weapon, and relying upon deterrence; or, two, the use of military force against Iran to prevent the development of that weapon.

My friend from Pennsylvania, as well as all of us on this floor, have received, I expect, the same extensive briefings I have on just how limited those alternatives are at this point militarily.

So I think the President has chosen a very reasonable course here. But even if you disagree with it, one of the things that--and I have been here during seven Presidents, and I have been very critical of this President's foreign policy--but the idea, in the midst of a negotiation, at the point at which the world is expecting and waiting and wondering what Iran's response will be, that the U.S. Senate would go on record as tying the President's hands in this negotiation--I find that amazing, absolutely amazing.

I spoke this morning with the Secretary of State who authorized me to say, unequivocally, the administration opposes this amendment. It limits their flexibility in doing what we all want: preventing the construction of a nuclear weapon in Iran. How much clearer can the administration be? And as my Grandfather Finnegan from my home State of Pennsylvania used to say: Who died and left you boss? Since when do we negotiate for a President? We are in the midst of a negotiation. The only thing we have going for us now, with China, Russia, and Europe all siding with us, we are about to mess up? Folks, I think this is such a tragic mistake--well-intended but tragic. The underlying amendment, Mr. Santorum's amendment, in my view, and in the view of the Secretary of State, actually advocates a policy that would jeopardize President Bush's initiative and, I believe, play directly into the hands of Iranian hard-liners.

I think if you read the language, it also has the potential to damage relations with some of the key countries whose cooperation we need to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. If this approach were adopted, we would be in the untenable position of sanctioning companies located in countries that we are asking to impose sanctions on Iran if they fail to accept the offer put forward by Russia, China, Europe, and the United States.

It does not, with all due respect to my friend, because I have joined him in Iran sanctions legislation in the past--I have joined him--but this is a different amendment and it is a fundamentally different time.

I remember going down to see the President when he was making his first trip to Europe. He asked whether I would come down and speak with him and his staff and I did. It was very gracious of him to ask my opinion, which was very nice of him. He said he was going to Germany. And he said--I am paraphrasing--I understand you have been asked to speak to the Bundestag, the German Parliament.

I said: Yes, I have, Mr. President.

He said: I understand you have turned it down.

I said: Yes, I have, Mr. President.

He said: Why?

I said: Mr. President, we only have one President. You are my President. My disagreements with you on foreign policy--at that time it related to the Balkans and some other things--I think it is totally inappropriate, while you are in Europe, while you are in discussions with the very people who invited me to speak, for me to go and publicly afront you in a foreign capital before their--their--Parliament, the very Parliament you are going to be speaking to. I am not President. You are our President. And he pressed: Well, why?

And I said, somewhat facetiously--and I have had this discussion with Newt--I am not Newt Gingrich. I don't go to the Middle East and speak to Middle Eastern Parliaments while the previous Secretary of State is there negotiating. I think it is inappropriate.

The President of the United States is in the midst of the most important negotiations, absent Korea--and not much is going on there--that we have had since he has been President. And even if everything in here makes sense, why would we now do this?

My plea to my friend from Pennsylvania is: Withhold this amendment. See what happens in the negotiations. If, in fact, they fail--as they have an overwhelming prospect that could happen--then come back to the Senate and the Congress to put on these restrictions.

Mr. President, may I ask how much time the Senator from Delaware has remaining?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. One minute 50 seconds.

Mr. BIDEN. I say to my friend from Pennsylvania--I have not had a chance to speak to him personally--I say to the Senator from Pennsylvania, I have an amendment.

Mr. President, have I sent my amendment to the desk? Is the Biden amendment at the desk?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. It is at the desk but not called up.

AMENDMENT NO. 4257

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I call up my amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.

The legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from Delaware [Mr. Biden], for himself, Mr. Hagel, Mr. Dodd, and Mr. Levin, proposes an amendment numbered 4257.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:

At the appropriate place, insert the following:

SEC. 1231. UNITED STATE'S POLICY ON THE NUCLEAR PROGRAMS OF IRAN.

(a) Findings.--Congress finds that:

(1) The pursuit by the Iranian regime of a capability to produce nuclear weapons represents a threat to the United States, the Middle East region, and international peace and security.

(2) On May 31, 2006, Secretary of State Rice announced that the United States would join negotiations with Iran, along with the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, provided that Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities.

(3) On June 1, 2006, President George W. Bush stated that ``Secretary Rice, at my instructions, said to the world that we want to solve the problem of the Iranian nuclear issue diplomatically. And we made it very clear publicly that we're willing to come to the table, so long as the Iranians verifiably suspend their program. In other words, we said to the Iranians [that] the United States of America wants to work with our partners to solve the problem''.

(4) On June 1, 2006, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the People's Republic of China, and the Russian Federation agreed upon a package of incentives and disincentives, which was subsequently presented to Iran by the High Representative of the European Union, Javier Solana.

(b) Sense of Congress.--Congress--

(1) endorses the policy of the United States, announced May 31, 2006, to achieve a successful diplomatic outcome, in coordination with leading members of the international community, with respect to the threat posed by the efforts of the Iranian regime to acquire a capability to produce nuclear weapons;

(2) calls on Iran to suspend fully and verifiably its enrichment and reprocessing activities, cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and enter into negotiations, including with the United States, pursuant to the package presented to Iran by the High Representative of the European Union; and

(3) urges the President and the Secretary of State to keep Congress fully and currently informed about the progress of this vital diplomatic initiative.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, what my amendment does is speak to and support the President's present negotiation. It gives full support to the President of the United States, because if there was ever a time the President should have the world know the Nation stands behind him, it is now. It is now in this negotiation. I don't have time to read the amendment, but I promise you, it is a rendition of the administration's position on negotiations and compliments him for it and says we support him.

Although Senator Hagel is in a hearing and on his way, there will probably not be much time for him to speak. But he is a cosponsor, along with Senators LEVIN and DODD. I am sure there are others, and I ask unanimous consent that they be able to be added later.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I also want to point out that the distinguished chairman of the Armed Services Committee, if I am not mistaken, yesterday raised significant concerns with the Santorum amendment as well. As I look at the RECORD, they all are pertinent and accurate.

I will conclude by saying, this is no time to be meddling in the midst of a negotiation on one of the most important issues facing the United States, when the President has newly initiated a specific proposal. I urge my friend from Pennsylvania to withhold his amendment until we see what turns out there. If he thinks it is necessary after the negotiations succeed or fail, then come back.

I thank my friend from Pennsylvania for allowing me to probably run over a minute or so.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BIDEN. Will the manager yield me time to speak to my amendment?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has 1 minute.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, our amendment merely states that we support the President's efforts, in a nutshell. I only have a minute. We support the President's efforts in negotiations with our European allies, the Russians, and Chinese to both offer incentives and sanctions to Iran regarding its proceeding with construction of a nuclear weapon.

I yield the floor.

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