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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRAHAM. Will the Senator yield? As we play this out, I think there is a lot of bipartisan agreement that the United States needs to develop some form of missile defense. I know Senator Kerry does agree. I am sure the President does. We all live in a very dangerous world. The idea of a missile coming from Iran or North Korea or some other rogue nations is a reality. It is a different topic to talk about neutering a first strike from the Russian Federation.

But the idea that an intercontinental ballistic missile coming to the United States from some rogue nation such as Iran or North Korea--does my colleague believe that is a possibility in the future?

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I certainly do, and obviously our defense planners worry about that as well.

Mr. GRAHAM. And I believe the President of the United States believes that too.

Mr. KYL. Yes.

Mr. GRAHAM. Here is the problem, and correct me if I am wrong. If we enter into this treaty and the preamble is not clarified or stricken, there could come a point down the road, as we develop these systems to defend against what we all agree is a real national security threat to the United States, what damage would it do to our relationship and what kind of conflict would it create or anxiety in the world at large if the Russians say: We are going to back out of the treaty, because that is the one thing you do not want to happen. You do not want to sign a treaty where you are going to do A, and if you do A, they back out because you put the world in a state of confusion and danger. The idea that all the papers in the world would one day read: Russians back out of strategic arms limitation treaty because of U.S. deployment of missile defense--to me, that is something we need to deal with with certainty because if that day ever came, it would really be an unnerving event.

It is clear to me that the Russians have taken the preamble language to mean that we have limited ourselves. It is clear to me that the President is trying to say we have not limited ourselves. Senator Kerry says it, I say it, you say it. But if the Russians do not agree with that, it would be better not to do the treaty, in my view, than it would be to create an illusion that the world is safer and have that illusion destroyed.

Just think this through. No matter how much you want a treaty, the worst thing that could happen, in my view, is that two major powers with nuclear weapons sometime in the future have a falling out. That is where we are headed if we do not get this right.

To my colleagues, this is a big event. It is a big moment in terms of our relationship with Russia. But you should not sign a treaty when there is a high likelihood, if we do what we think we need to do, that it will put them in a spot of having to withdraw. That has to be settled.

Taking the preamble out--if we took it out and they still signed the treaty, that would make sense. If you leave it confusing, then you are asking yourself for a heartache down the road. Do you agree with that?

Mr. KYL. I certainly do.

I will terminate my conversation here by also adding one other point to my response to my colleague from Arizona about a letter from the President. The problem right now is

that such a letter, if it confirmed we were going to move forward with a missile defense system adequate to protect the United States from an ICBM, from more than regional threats, would directly contradict our signing statement. What the President would have to do is say: I hereby reject or repudiate the signing statement that the State Department attached to the treaty when we signed it and state the U.S. position instead as--and then lay out his commitment to deploy a defense system adequate to protect the United States from an ICBM.

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Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, I think I am recognized for 10 minutes; is that correct?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is correct.

Mr. GRAHAM. Let me know when 9 have expired, if you do not mind.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Certainly.

Mr. GRAHAM. We are going to have a little exchange here in a minute about what the last week has been like. There have been some statements that Republicans have not been here offering amendments, that somehow we have sort of been letting time pass at the expense of a meaningful debate on the START treaty. I think we can catalog at least what three of us have been doing in the last week, and that might be informative to the body as to why it has been tough to talk about START in a meaningful way.

But to Senator Levin, who is a wonderful man, if this preamble language being taken out of the treaty is a fatal problem, then that bothers me because I do not know if any Russians are listening to this debate, but I have a simple question for your government. Your government has been saying publicly that if we deploy--the United States--four stages of missile defense, you believe that allows you--the Russian Government--to withdraw from the treaty.

We all intend to do that. Our President is saying that we are going to deploy four stages of missile defense to defend this Nation against missile attacks from North Korea, Iran, anywhere else it may come from. If you do not agree with that, let us know now because it is not going to help you or us to sign a treaty and it fall apart later.

So at the end of the day, this is a simple question that needs to be answered in a direct, simple way. Does the Russian Government believe the preamble language that Senator McCain is trying to strike gives them a legal ability to withdraw from the treaty if we move forward on missile defense, as we plan to? That is not complicated. That is a very big deal. And I do not care what an American says about that. I want to hear from the Russian Government as to what you say about that. So get back with me.

Wednesday of last week, Senator Kyl said: Here is my view of how we should do START in the lameduck.

I say to the Senator, you suggested that we should get the tax issue behind us, and we need to come up with a way to fund the government, and we could start the debate on the START treaty--last Wednesday. I ask Senator Kyl, do you remember saying that?

Mr. KYL addressed the Chair.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.

Mr. KYL. Actually, if I could correct it a little bit.

Mr. GRAHAM. OK. Please.

Mr. KYL. I was involved in the negotiations over the tax legislation.

Mr. GRAHAM. Right.

Mr. KYL. And in an effort to prod the people in those negotiations to put their ideas on the table so we could complete work on the tax negotiations, I said: Given the schedule that the leader had announced--the desire to leave Washington this afternoon, December 17--I felt they needed to follow--and I laid out a schedule, the Senator is right--by which we would complete work on the tax

legislation and the funding of the government, so we could begin this treaty last Wednesday. And if we were able to begin the treaty last Wednesday, and we did not have any interruptions in the interim, then a period of about 9 days would have existed, even working through the weekend, and we could have completed it by today. By the way, when I said last Wednesday, obviously, I meant the Wednesday prior.

Mr. GRAHAM. It is my understanding, the majority leader said on the floor of the Senate: Our goal is to try to get out by the 18th because we do not want to be here on Christmas Eve like we were last time. I think that was music to most of our ears.

So could the Senator please walk through with me what the Senate has been dealing with since last Wednesday? The tax debate finally got finished when, last night?

Mr. KYL. Madam President, the House finally concluded its work on the tax extensions and related activities last night. I think ours was a night or two prior to that.

Mr. GRAHAM. You were our lead negotiator on the taxes; is that correct?

Mr. KYL. Well, I am not going to take credit for that because I would get a lot of----

Mr. GRAHAM. But the Senator was deeply involved?

Mr. KYL. Madam President, I will totally deny that I had anything to do with it. But I was involved in the negotiations for the Republican Senate side.

Mr. GRAHAM. OK. And those negotiations have resulted in a vote in the House last night.

What else have we done? Was there an effort to pass the Defense appropriations bill without any ability to amend it, I ask Senator McCain?

Mr. KERRY addressed the Chair.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.

Mr. KERRY. If Senator Byrd were here, he would ask us all to try to abide by the Senate rules and speak through the Chair.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.

Mr. McCAIN. He asked unanimous consent that the three of us be allowed to engage in a colloquy.

Mr. GRAHAM. I apologize.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. McCAIN. My only answer to that is, yes. There was a lot of work and effort and time spent on that issue, yes.

Mr. GRAHAM. I say to Senator Kyl, I do believe, in addition, you are our whip on the Republican side; is that correct?

Mr. KYL. Madam President, yes.

Mr. GRAHAM. So one thing that has happened is we have been trying to make sure there was not a vote on the Defense authorization bill in a fashion where there could be no amendment by the Republicans. I think we were successful in beating that; is that correct?

Mr. KYL. Madam President, yes, that is exactly correct. And we were working on that at the same time--well, actually that has been going on now for about 10 or 12 days.

Mr. GRAHAM. How many efforts have there been since the Wednesday in question dealing with the DREAM Act? How many opportunities have we had to deal with different versions of the DREAM Act that may come before the Senate?

Mr. KYL. Madam President, I have forgotten. I would have to tell my colleague, I think it is three. I am not sure. We are now on the sixth version of the DREAM Act.

Mr. GRAHAM. OK. As I understand it, there is going to be another vote on the DREAM Act coming up maybe tomorrow?

Mr. KYL. Madam President, I think that is the schedule, that we would have a cloture vote on the DREAM Act tomorrow morning.

Mr. GRAHAM. And I would assume, as part of the Senator's duties, and some of us who have been involved in immigration, we have been very concerned about that, trying to make sure the DREAM Act does not pass this way because we believe it would be bad for the country; is that correct?

Mr. KYL. Madam President, yes, I have been consulting with our Members on the DREAM Act, on the Defense bill, as the Senator mentioned, on the tax legislation, on what we then called the Omnibus appropriations bill, which----

Mr. GRAHAM. Let's stop there.

The Omnibus appropriations bill was defeated last night; is that correct?

Mr. KYL. Madam President, yes. The majority leader--well, it was not defeated. The majority leader pulled it down in order to reach an agreement with the Republican side on a much slimmed down version, a continuing resolution.

Mr. GRAHAM. Did that take much of your time?

Mr. KYL. Yes, that took a lot of my time, working on the Omnibus appropriations bill. As the Senator knows, when, 2 days ago, we began debate on the START treaty, there was an assumption that I would speak immediately--on the first evening, I said, actually, let's get some business done here first. We need to do the funding of the government. So my first comments were on the Omnibus appropriations bill.

Mr. GRAHAM. As of right now, do we have a deal to fund the government that is firm?

Mr. KYL. Madam President, no. The House of Representatives, I understand, has gone home after adopting a very short-term, I think a 3-day continuing resolution to fund the government since its funding terminates at midnight tomorrow night. We will have to then take up either that--well, we will probably take that up, adopt that, I assume, I hope, by unanimous consent, and then work out the maybe 3-month continuing resolution that will have to be passed by both bodies before we go home.

Mr. GRAHAM. To my friend from Arizona, Senator McCain, are you aware of an effort to repeal the don't ask, don't tell policy, that would allow no Republican amendment, that could be as early as tomorrow or this weekend?

Mr. McCAIN. I would say, Madam President, that not only on the don't ask, don't tell has the tree been filled but also on the DREAM Act. I have obviously been heavily involved in immigration issues for some years, including things that have happened including the murder of a Border Patrol agent just in the last couple days in Arizona, obviously by someone from the drug cartels. So, yes, there will be, again, a vote with no amendments allowed, again, on either one of those pieces of legislation.

Mr. GRAHAM. Thank you. Feelings are getting a bit raw here and there is no use blaming anybody. It is hard to reach a consensus on how to fund the government. There was an effort to do it that fell apart that I thought was against the mandate of the last election. Thank God we defeated that, but it took a lot of effort. There is an effort to pass the DREAM Act that I think is unseemly and counterproductive.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has consumed 9 minutes.

Mr. GRAHAM. Thank you. That has been counterproductive to overall immigration reform, and I don't think it is immigration reform more than it is politics.

So, in conclusion, it has been a week from hell. It has been a week where we are dealing with a lot of big issues, from taxes to funding the government to special interest politics. I have had some time to think about START but not a lot, and it is wearing the body.

This is a major piece of legislation. My good friend, JOHN KERRY, whom I respect, I know has tried to get this debate going in a way we could--to find a conclusion we all could vote on and go home and explain to our constituents.

Senator Kyl laid that way out. Unfortunately, everything you hoped to have happen from Wednesday to this Friday has, quite frankly, just been unacceptable to a serious debate on START. Here we are, the week before Christmas Eve, and we have talked about a lot of stuff--some important, some politics--and that is the first time I have had the chance to talk about START.

So I am not blaming anybody. But please don't blame me, that I have somehow ignored START, because we have been pretty busy around here stopping some bad ideas or at least trying to.

I yield the floor.

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