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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I say Merry Christmas to all my colleagues. We never expected to find ourselves here this time of year, but obviously there are very important issues to discuss.

On November 2, Americans made a pretty historic statement. After 2 years of many things being crammed down their throat that they did not like, they made historic changes in the House and the Senate. I think all expectations were that the new Congress would come in and begin to change things. Very few Americans--and I think very few of us in the Senate--actually thought we would use the time between that election and the swearing in of the new Members of Congress to continue to cram through more things America does not want.

Most businesses have learned that if they ever have to make the difficult decision of firing someone, it is very important that person be sent home right away because getting fired usually makes people angry and less loyal to the company that fired them. Instead of dealing with all the mischief that might occur, the fired employee is sent home right away.

We are a fired Congress in a lot of ways. America has sent us home. Many people who set the policies for the last 2 years have been unelected. Some have retired. But the decisions that are being made now in this Congress are decisions being made by people who have either retired or who have been turned out of office. So much is being pushed through because of the fear that if we actually let the newly elected Congressmen and Senators be sworn in before we take up these important issues that they will actually reflect the opinions of the American people and stop what we are doing.

We have decided to use this lameduck session to push many items through. It is a very unaccountable Congress. We tried to push through a huge omnibus spending bill with thousands of earmarks, exactly the thing about which Americans have said no more. Thankfully, Republicans stood together to stop that bill.

We needed to extend our current tax rates, but even in order to get a temporary extension, we in the minority had to agree to more deficit spending. In this lameduck session, we have pushed our political correctness on to our military by repealing don't ask, don't tell without the proper studies, without the proper phase-in time, and no rational approach to this. It was just check the box of another political payback.

In another check the box of amnesty, the DREAM Act, which was brought up and fortunately Republicans stood against something that again avoided the big issue of border security. This Congress has continuously rejected the idea of carrying through on our own law to complete the double-layer fencing we put into law to protect the southern border. Thousands of people are being killed on the border because we refuse to take action. Yet we are continuing to try to expand the problem with more amnesty and citizenship and public benefits to those who came here illegally.

The threat is now to keep us here until Christmas or beyond to pass what we are calling a 9/11 bill. Every Member of this Chamber--Republicans and Democrats--wants to do what is right for the first responders who may have been injured after 9/11. But we owe it to the American people to be accountable to how we spend money. To put a bill on the floor, in an unaccountable lameduck Congress, that has not been through hearings, when we do not know how the millions of dollars have been used that we have already given to the same cause certainly is worth a few weeks of committee hearings and understanding exactly how to spend taxpayer money effectively in a way we know will help the people who have been injured.

But, no, we have to push that through in a fired, unaccountable Congress. Of course, now the big issue of the day is somehow, in a time of economic recession and so many people being out of work, that we want to use this lameduck, unaccountable Congress to push through a major arms control treaty with Russia. Somehow that ended up on the top of our priority list, using Christmas as a backstop to try to force us to pass this bill.

It is pretty interesting how this has progressed. The treaty had no chance of ratification until the President agreed to billions of dollars in modernization of our nuclear weapons.

We have to stop and ask ourselves: Why should we have to have backroom trading going on to modernize our nuclear weapons? That should be something the President is committed to, that we are committed to. We should not have to trade for modernization. But now we appear to have enough Republicans who have decided this is a good treaty to ratify a few days before Christmas in a fired, unaccountable Congress, with the need to push it through before America's representatives actually get here the first of January. The sense here is if we let the people America just elected come, that maybe the treaty will need some modifications.

There have been many questions expressed about the treaty. I think some of them are very legitimate. Clearly, missile defense is a problem. The Russians have expressed that Americans cannot develop any kind of comprehensive missile defense system under this treaty. We say: No, no. We can develop a limited missile defense system. We are going through all kinds of convoluted language to put things in nonbinding areas of this agreement, to say we are committed or we are going to communicate to the Russians that we are committed, but we even were unwilling to put it in the preamble that there is no linkage between the development of our missile defense system and this treaty agreement. Clearly, there is a linkage. The Russians believe there is a linkage.

All the correspondence from the President says ``limited missile defense system.'' We obviously have agreed to it. We never could get the negotiating records to confirm that, but everything suggests there is an implicit and explicit agreement that America will not attempt to develop a missile defense system capable of defending against Russian missiles. Perhaps capable of defending against a rogue missile launch or an accidental missile launch, but the language in this treaty, communications from the White House, the hearings all say we will only have a limited missile defense system.

There should be no mistake, there should be no confusion, the agreement to this treaty is an agreement for America not to develop a comprehensive missile defense system. If that is satisfactory, then let's ratify. Clearly, there are holes in the verification process of this treaty. The growing and biggest threat is tactical nuclear weapons. Shorter range missiles, ground-based, sub-based are not even included in this agreement.

The Russians are fine with this. They were going down to the same long-range missile count we require in this treaty anyway. They give up nothing. We don't restrict any of their tactical developments. The verification is less stringent than in START I, with fewer inspections, and the ability to actually look at things such as telemetry are obviously omitted here.

We can't ratify this treaty with any pretense that America is going to be any safer. In fact, I think the biggest problem with this treaty is the whole presumption it is built on--that America should be at parity with Russia. We have talked about it here in this Chamber, that we do not have the same role as Russia in this world. Russia is a protector of none and a threat to many. America is the protector of many and a threat to none. Over 30 countries live in peace under our nuclear umbrella, but we are saying we are going to reduce it, with a lot of questions as to whether we are going to modernize it, and we are telling our allies that tactical nuclear weapons are not going to be restricted in any way, which is probably their biggest concern because of their contiguous location to Russia.

Mr. INHOFE. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. DeMINT. Yes.

Mr. INHOFE. When you talk about the missile defense aspect of this, I wonder if it has occurred to a lot of people that maybe this treaty is with the wrong people. We know right now that Iran is going to have the capability--and this is not even classified--of a nuclear weapon, a delivery system, by 2015. I think one of the worst things for America--and this President did it--was to take down the sites we were planning in Poland that would give us this protection.

My point I want to make, and then to ask the Senator about, is that in the event this is ratified and we are restricted in any way from developing further our missile defense system, doesn't that put us directly in an impaired position in terms of North Korea, maybe Syria, but definitely Iran, that has already indicated and already has the capability of reaching us by that time?

It is interesting that the site would have been in effect to knock down a missile coming from Iran by 2015, the same year our intelligence community tells us they will have that capability. Isn't that the threat we are concerned about, more than Russia?

Mr. DeMINT. I want to thank the Senator from Oklahoma for bringing out another very important point. We are laser focused on this treaty with Russia, which obviously restricts our ability to develop missile defense. Yet we all seem to acknowledge the greatest growing threat in this world is from Iran and North Korea and other rogue nations that can develop nuclear technology.

It is almost like watching a magician at play here, of getting us to look at one hand while other things are going on. We are not paying attention to the Nation's business here, and I am afraid this is just another ``check the box''--a foreign policy victory for the administration. If it did not have so many questions related to it, that would be fine, but not to jam this through with a fired, unaccountable Congress, and rushing it through before the representatives America just elected have been sworn in, and doing it as part of a list of legislation--a long list over the last 2 years--that America does not want.

I want good relations with Russia and countries all over the world, but I am afraid this is part of a continued effort of accommodation and appeasement; that if we show weakness, other countries will accommodate us. We need Russia to cooperate--with Russia and North Korea. Folks, I don't think this is the way to get it, and I don't think we are going to gain respect for our process of trying to do this under the cover of a distraction of a major holiday with a lameduck, unaccountable Congress.

In the way this is being presented, it is a mockery of the debate process here in the Senate. We are not amending a treaty. We were told at the outset it is ``take it or leave it.'' The Russians are negotiating, clearly, from a position of strength, because they said, here is the treaty, take it or leave it; any changes and the treaty is dead. Is that the way America needs to deal with other countries? Is that the way the Senate should debate a major arms control agreement, where the majority party is saying, you can go talk about it if you want, but we are going to kill every amendment, even though we say we agree with a lot of them. There will be no changes in this.

We are trying to stick some things in here in the areas of the treaty that have no binding aspect and say we have covered it, but we are making a mockery of the whole debate and ratification processes with an unaccountable, fired Congress, under the cover of Christmas, and a debate where we have been told ``take it or leave it.'' This is not what the Senate is about, this is not what Congress is supposed to be about, and certainly we should not be passing major legislation at this time of year with this Congress.

Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to speak. I still hope my colleagues will come to their senses and show the American people that we are going to act in a responsible way that respects what they told us on November 2; that this Congress needs to go, a new one needs to come in, and we need to stop cramming things down their throats they do not want.

With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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