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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, again, I repeat that we are beginning the third day of debate on the START treaty. Senator Lugar and I are anxious to begin debate on an actual amendment. We are prepared to do so as soon as colleagues decide to come to the floor and bring us those amendments. I will repeat that given the press of business and the holidays, we are sort of in a place where we want to afford people that opportunity, but if people don't want to take advantage of that, we are certainly prepared to move to a vote.

I emphasize that there are no amendments from colleagues on the Democratic side. We are prepared to just vote on this treaty. I think perhaps we are getting a signal that other colleagues may want to likewise try to move to conclude this treaty fairly rapidly. Certainly, Senator Lugar and I are prepared to do so. Senator Lugar has pressed me to try to see if we can proceed with respect to the procedural votes that would bring us to that point. I have suggested that we ought to perhaps give that a little more time. We are prepared to do so. At some point, I think it will be appropriate for us to do that.

I know Senator Lugar wants to speak with respect to some of the points that were made yesterday. First, would the Senator be agreeable to having Senator Franken speak?

Mr. LUGAR. Mr. President, I am delighted to delay my remarks to listen to other Senators who have come to the floor. We are eager to try to expedite all of the statements of our Members.

Mr. KERRY. Would the Senator agree with me that we have been open for business for about 2 days now, and this is the third day, and we need to get to a substantive amendment or perhaps to move to close off the debate and have our last 30 hours?

Mr. LUGAR. I agree with the chairman. I hope that, having raised that issue, Members will come to the floor promptly, amendments will be offered, and votes will be taken.

It appears to me that a number of our colleagues are prepared to conclude business, including our majority leader and the Republican leader. I think that is the sentiment of the body. As a result, given the 9 1/2 hours of open time yesterday and a number of good statements, we did not progress toward any resolution of either amendments or the treaty. I think today we must do so. I support action to accelerate that.

Mr. KERRY. I emphasize that if colleagues want to be here, the majority leader has told me he will keep the Senate open Saturday, Sunday, through the weekend, in order to do so. So it is our choice. But I think, in lieu of complaints about the rapidity with which the holiday is arriving, we might spend time on an actual amendment or votes.

I yield the floor.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Minnesota is recognized.

Mr. FRANKEN. Mr. President, may I ask Senator Kerry one question. When I was presiding yesterday, a Member rose in opposition to the treaty. He was complaining about it coming up now. He pointed to when we got the treaty from the White House, which was in May; is that right?

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, that is correct, I say to the Senator from Minnesota. I think it was April that it was signed and May when we actually received the submission of the documents themselves.

Mr. FRANKEN. I ask the chairman, when this Senator was presiding, another Senator was on the floor saying that we got this in May, and now it is close to the end of the year, and it is outrageous that we are doing it now.

I ask Senator Kerry, didn't he accommodate those on the other side of this issue several times when they asked for delay themselves?

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, the Senator is absolutely correct. There was a series of requests from Senators on the other side--which is totally appropriate. I am not suggesting that was inappropriate. I think the record needs to reflect that on those multiple occasions when people requested time in order to be able to prepare, we gave them time.

Senator Lugar was importuned some 13 times to specifically slow down the treaty process in order to allow for more time to be able to address the modernization process, which is outside the treaty but not unlinked from it when you are making judgments about this.

Senator Kyl brought up some relevant omissions in that modernization process. That extra time allowed us to address that--I hope to his satisfaction but certainly to the improvement of an understanding of where we are proceeding and to increase the funds.

Then we delayed even further when the committee was prepared to vote. There was a request for delay, and we delayed that vote.

Then we delayed even after that in order to avoid the appearance of politicizing the treaty for the election. So we literally took it out and said: OK, we will do it after the election, which is why I think people feel so adamantly that now is the time.

There have been an appropriate series of delays. You cannot come in and ask for delay and then say: Oh my gosh, we are pushed up against the calendar, and it is difficult to do it now--particularly since we are in day 3 and we have plenty of time to even exceed the amount of time in which we did START I.

I thank the Senator from Minnesota for clarifying that. I hope not to get locked into a discussion of process now or what happens when. Let's just do the substance of the treaty and show the country that we have the ability to, in a bipartisan way, meet the national security needs of our Nation. Again, I thank the Senator for his question.


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, we have no intention of trying to use any technicality to deny an ability to offer an amendment. When each amendment comes up, we will find a way to make certain it is appropriate. We obviously have to send a signal at this point where you have to go off the treaty and onto the resolution of ratification. That happens automatically when we file cloture. So once that is done, it really becomes irrelevant.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, when the Senator says that happens automatically, if cloture is filed and invoked, then both amendments to the treaty, the preamble, and the resolution of ratification are cut off at that point, correct?

Mr. KERRY. No. There still are germane amendments allowed to the resolution of ratification at that point, providing we have at that point completed issues on the treaty.

Mr. KYL. In other words, cloture cuts off both the resolution of ratification amendments as well as treaty and preamble amendments.

Mr. KERRY. Correct. Once it has been invoked, that is correct.

Let me say a couple of things to my friend, if I may. I know he has to run, but in his earlier argument with respect to the prompt global strike--we can get into this, and we will a little bit later, but he said something about how you could eliminate the issue of confusion with the Russians because you could just agree with them, and they could agree, and then you have sort of an identification. The whole point is, they won't agree. They are not going to agree. You can't sort of make this supposition all of a sudden that you can erase a problem simply because they will agree to something they don't want to agree to, which is why we are in the place we are with respect to that issue. That is No. 1.

No. 2, we made the decision, our generals made the decision, our defense folks, that we are better off with this because it, in fact, gives us a greater capacity to be able to verify what they are doing as well as what we are doing and to understand the makeup of ICBMs as we go forward.

I won't go into this at great length, but let me say to the Senator, I urge him to reread the resolution of ratification. In that resolution, condition 6 addresses these questions. Condition 7 addresses these questions. Understanding 5 addresses strategic range nonnuclear weapons systems and declaration 3 addresses them. I will not go through all of that language right now, but we have addressed this question. Any future treaty with respect to this question of global zero that keeps coming back up--I will talk about this later with the Senator, but the Senator must have a very different vision of where he would like to see the world go and of what would be in the long-term interest globally and of what the impact is of multiple nuclear weapons in the world with a lot more fissionable material, a lot more ability for terrorists to be able to access that fissionable material.

The fact is that in testimony before our committee, Secretary Baker was very clear about the linkage of the Nunn-Lugar threat reduction program and the START treaty. He said directly to the committee that were it not for the START treaty, we would not have been able to reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons and therefore the amount of fissionable material that in many cases was badly guarded or not guarded at all and completely available to the possibility of black market sale and falling into the hands of terrorists. There are many ways to proceed forward.

I would also say to my friend, with respect to this global nuclear zero, it is stunning to me that colleagues are coming to the floor fighting against an organizing principle and concept for how you could move the entire world to a safer place, ultimately, none of which will happen, clearly, without extraordinary changes globally in the way nations relate to each other and behave, how you control fissionable material, and what kind of dispute resolution mechanisms might be available in the future.

But, for heaven's sake, it is incredible to me that you cannot imagine and have a vision of the possibility of a world in which you ultimately work to get this. That is the purpose of human endeavor in this field, in a sense. It is why we have a United Nations. It is why President after President has talked about a world without nuclear weapons, a world that is safer.

Does that mean that all of a sudden we are discarding the present day notion of deterrence? No. Does that mean we are ignoring the reality of how countries have made judgments over the course of the Cold War about peace and war and what the risk is of going to war? Obviously not.

One of the things the Navy did for me was send me to nuclear, chemical, biological warfare school, and I spent an interesting time learning about throw weight and the concentric circles of damage and the extent to which one nuclear weapon wreaks havoc in the world. The concept, to me, of 1,550 of them aimed at each other is still way above any sort of reasonable standards, in my judgment, about what it takes to deter. Do you think we would think about bombing China today or going to war with them? China has, in published, unclassified assessments, one-tenth maybe of the number of weapons we have. I do not think they are feeling particularly threatened by the United States in that context, nor we they, because you arrive at other ways of sort of working through these kinds of things.

So I just think this concept of a nuclear zero is so irrelevant to this debate, particularly given the fact that we are debating a treaty which is the only way to agree to reduce the weapons that requires 67 votes in the Senate. So even if President Obama wanted to try to do something in the future, this treaty does not open the door to it because it would require a next treaty in order to accomplish it and that would require 67 votes and it is pretty obvious you would never get that in the Senate in the current world.

So what are we talking about here? It is sort of a distraction. It is one of these hobgoblins of some folks who are so ideologically narrowly focused that they cannot see the forest for the trees. The choice is between having a treaty that gives you inspection, that every Member of our intelligence community says can be verified, that helps to provide security or not having one and having no inspection and having no verification--none, whatsoever. That is the choice. This is not particularly complicated, unless you want to make it so, for a whole lot of other reasons.

So the concept that doing this treaty is a distraction from dealing with terror is absolutely contradicted by the facts. Witness what Jim Baker and others have said about the Nunn-Lugar Threat Reduction Program and its linkage to START I, not to mention the myriad of other benefits that come, and there you see what Russia has done with the United States in recent months to move with respect to Iran. If we had not had a reset button, if we had not improved the relationship with Russia, if we had not been able to share information and have a cooperative atmosphere, partly increased by virtue of this treaty agreement, if we had not done that, Russia would not have joined with the United States because the relationship would not have been such that they would have been willing to in order to bring greater sanctions against Iran and try to deal with Iran's nuclear program.

So all of these things are linked. To suggest somehow that you can walk in here and just separate them and treat them differently is to ignore the nature of government-to-government relations, to ignore the nature of bilateral relationships, to ignore the nature of human nature in which people react to what other people do, and countries are the same way. They react to the sense of where we are headed. By working together cooperatively, I think we have been able to say we are headed in the same direction, and that is an important message.

There is a lot more to be said on all this, but I yield the floor.


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I wish to thank the ranking member, Senator Lugar, for sharing that account with the Senate. I think it is first of all historic, but secondly I think it is relevant to the interconnectedness between what we are doing here and the long-term ways in which we make our country safer. One can only imagine if one group or another that we are all too familiar with the labels and names of these days had gotten hold of those barrels. The havoc that could have been wreaked somewhere is extraordinary. As the Senator from Indiana knows better than anybody here, some of these nuclear materials were behind creaky old rusty gates; maybe one guard, if any guard; a lock that was so easy to break--I mean, it was infantile, the notion that something was secured. Much of that has changed as a consequence of the program that he and Senator Nunn began, but also the consciousness that has been raised in a lot of countries around the world. This effort, we believe, continues that.

So I thank him for his leadership, again, on that score. We are awaiting amendments from colleagues and we look forward to entertaining them when they get here.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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