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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. WICKER. Madam President, America had an election on November 2. Let me begin by reminding my colleagues that the American people spoke loudly and clearly in November and chose a far different team to serve in Washington. A vastly different leadership will soon take over in the House of Representatives, and a substantially different group of Senators was chosen by the American people in the election on November 2.

It seems the leadership of this lameduck Senate is determined, in the waning days of 2010, to pack quite a bit of legislation that normally is debated over a considerable amount of time into just a few days--not only the START treaty that we are on now but also don't ask, don't tell and supposedly the majority leader has not given up on the DREAM Act, which would provide amnesty to many illegal immigrants, and also there is the massive Omnibus appropriations bill with 2,000-plus pages.

So we are here at this time, realizing that if the Congress doesn't act, the government will run out of money on Saturday. I assume a short-term CR will be done to address that. But certainly, it would be much easier if we passed what the minority leader suggested today; that is, a reasonable short-term resolution, so the government can be funded and the lights can stay on until mid-February, and the newly elected Congress--the people's choice--can best decide these great issues that are facing our country.

I did find it interesting, a few moments ago, to hear the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee scold the Senate about the number of filibusters we have supposedly had in this term of Congress. I believe the statement was made that we have had more filibusters in the last 2 years than we have had in decades or since World War II or words to that effect. Here is why that statement is only true in a very technical sense.

It has been the practice of the majority, during the 3 years I have been in the Senate--and from what I understand much longer before that--to bring a bill to the floor of the Senate. He immediately fills the amendment tree; that is, he offers all the amendments that are allowed under the parliamentary rules of the Senate. That is called filling the tree. It is so nobody else has an opportunity to file an amendment. Then, the majority leader files cloture on that bill. Technically, yes, that is considered a filibuster. But I do not believe that is what most of the American people consider a filibuster and a delaying tactic, with excessive speechifying, when they hear the term ``filibuster.''

So let's be clear that there has been an unusual practice--at least in the last 3 or 4 years--of calling up a bill, filling the tree, filing for cloture, and then that goes down in history as a filibuster. With all we have to do and all our leadership has determined we must consider during these waning days of December 2010, we must divide our attention between an expensive 2,000-page omnibus bill and the consideration of a very complicated arms control agreement. It is that agreement I will discuss.

It is hard to imagine a more important, more serious issue than our nuclear weapons stockpile. In my view, such a debate deserves our undivided attention. But we will pivot in a few moments and move to the omnibus bill.

I wish to take what time I have at this point to begin sharing my concerns over this treaty and the effect it might have on national security.

Article II of the Constitution requires that the Senate ratify any treaty the President signs with a two-thirds vote. I take this responsibility very seriously, as I am sure all my colleagues do. This responsibility requires us to review any proposed treaty to ensure it is in the national interest of the United States of America.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have participated in the review of this treaty to date. While I appreciate the efforts of my chairman and my ranking member, I am not convinced that the treaty, in its current form, is in the national interests of the United States of America.

I might add I am not alone in this view. To hear debate on the floor from time to time today, one would think all the learned authorities, all the collective wisdom of the United States of America, present and past, are in favor of the hasty ratification of this treaty. I simply point out that there is a wide variety of information and opinion out there that should be brought to the attention of Members of the Senate and the American people.

First of all, I point out to my colleagues an op-ed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which appeared in the December 7, 2010, issue of the Wall Street Journal, entitled ``New Start: Ratify, with Caveats.'' Secretary Rice is generally in favor of the direction we are headed in the ratification of the START treaty. But she does say we need two caveats before ratification takes place. First, she states that smaller forces make the modernization of our nuclear infrastructure even more urgent. She commends the valiant efforts of Members of the Senate, including Senator Jon Kyl, to gain more robust modernization of our nuclear weapons. Secondly, the former Secretary of State says the Senate must make absolutely clear that in ratifying this treaty, the United States is not reestablishing the Cold War link between offensive forces and missile defenses. She says it is troubling that New START's preamble is unclear in this respect.

I wonder, if we do decide as a Senate to move toward consideration of this treaty, if we will be allowed to offer amendments to the preamble to address the concerns of our immediate past Secretary of State.

Further, I commend to my colleagues a Wall Street Journal op-ed, dated November 15, 2010, by R. James Woolsey. As my colleagues know, and many Americans know, Mr. Woolsey has a distinguished record as a delegate at large to the START and defense-based negotiations, back during the mid-1980s, as ambassador and chief negotiator for the Conventional Armed Forces of Europe Treaty from 1989 to 1991, and was President Clinton's Director of Central Intelligence from 1993 to 1995. So this bipartisan, experienced, former government official lists four concerns that he has with regard to the New START treaty. No. 1, he wonders about this administration's commitment to modernization. No. 2, he says it needs to be made clear that the United States, in ratifying New START, will not be limited at all in its missile defense, and he does not believe that has been taken care of. No. 3, Director Woolsey, President Clinton's Director of Central Intelligence, says this treaty represents a step backward in the verification process between the United States and Russia. Finally, Mr. Woolsey cites the need for a binding resolution on Russian submarine-launched cruise missiles. So I think there is information Members of the Senate need to hear about and need to consider.

Further, I will mention two opinion pieces. One is by Stephen Rademaker, an Assistant Secretary of State from 2002 to 2006. It is a Washington Post op-ed on Friday, August 20, 2010. Secretary Rademaker authored an opinion piece saying this is no way to approve the New START treaty. In his opinion piece, Mr. Rademaker said Senate critics of New START have largely been cut out of the process.

I know this from personal experience as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He goes on to say that all but two Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee formally asked the administration to share with them the negotiating record of the treaty. They were told no, even though there is precedent for accommodating such requests.

A simple request--had it been accommodated--perhaps could have allayed some of the concerns we have.

In another op-ed, Mr. Rademaker, on December 10 of this year, said START will not stop nuclear proliferation. He points out that the claim that progress in United States-Russian arms control will help stop countries such as Iran from getting nuclear weapons isn't just an argument offered in support of New START, it is also one of the key premises underlying President Obama's embrace of global nuclear disarmament. There is just one problem. He said the notion that faster disarmament will lead to greater progress against nuclear proliferation has never added up.

Then, further, I will quote from a September 8, 2010, Wall Street Journal piece by John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001 to 2005. Secretary Bolton observes that the treaty's return to outmoded Cold War limits on weapons launchers, which will require the United States but not Russia to dismantle existing delivery systems, is a problem. He goes on to say this could cripple America's long-range conventional warhead delivery capabilities, while also severely constraining our nuclear flexibility. He said: ``We will pay for this mistake in future conflicts entirely unrelated to Russia.''

I say to my colleagues that the jury is still out on this issue. These are experienced public servants, experts, and current observers of the international scene and the nuclear negotiation process. They have given us words that give me pause. It makes me think there is no reason to rush into a hasty ratification of this treaty.

With regard to the process, hearings first started in May of this year. I was one of the Foreign Relations Committee members to request nine witnesses we believed were important and necessary to cover the extent of our concerns.

This request was denied. There is no reason such a request would have been denied. In 12 hearings, there were two witnesses who spoke in opposition to this treaty. Members of the minority party requested others, but it nowhere came anywhere near the normal precedent given to the minority to have at least one witness on each panel. I was concerned that no former National Lab Directors were invited to testify.

It is essential that an appropriate amount of time be spent on the Senate floor considering this treaty. Members who have serious concerns must be permitted the opportunity to offer amendments that would address the full range of problems.

I would simply point out, this is the last quote of this speech today. In endorsing the START treaty, the Washington Post, on November 19, said:

Positive steps had been made and the treaty ought to be approved.

But it went on to say, the Editorial Board of the Washington Post went on to say:

But no calamity will befall the United States if the Senate does not act this year.

I could not agree more with the Washington Post. It will not be a calamity if we are given adequate time to fully discuss, to fully examine, to fully debate all of the ramifications about an issue so profound as our nuclear weapons capability. The worst thing this body could do is shirk our constitutional responsibility by rushing this through in the final days of this lameduck session simply to check the box before the new team, the newly elected team comes to Washington and takes office in January.

I ask unanimous consent that the Wall Street Journal article I referenced be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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