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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I am delighted to be able to say a few words in response to the minority leader. I have great respect for the minority leader. He and I came to the Senate together in the same class, and I appreciate the difficulties of his job and certainly the difficulties of corralling any number of the different personalities. The same is true for the majority leader. These are tough jobs.

But I say to my friend from Kentucky that just because you say something doesn't make it true. Our friends on the other side of the aisle seem to have a habit of repeating things that have been completely refuted by every fact there is. Our old friend Patrick Moynihan used to remind all of us in the Senate and in the country that everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts. John Adams made that famous statement that facts are stubborn things. Mr. President, facts are stubborn things.

The facts are that this treaty is not being rushed. This treaty was delayed at the request of Republicans. This treaty was delayed 13 times separately by Senator Lugar to respect their desire to have more time to deal with the modernization issue, which the administration has completely, totally, thoroughly dealt with in good faith. I would like to know where the good faith comes from on the other side occasionally. They put extra money in. They sat and negotiated. They sent people to Arizona to brief Senator Kyl personally. For weeks, we delayed the procession of moving forward on this treaty in order to accommodate our friends on the other side of the aisle. And now, fully accommodated, with their requests entirely met, they come back and say, oh, it is being rushed.

Well, today marks our sixth day of debate on the New START treaty. That is a fact--6 days of debate on the New START treaty. Now they will come to the floor and say that we had an intervening vote here or there. Sure. That is the way the Senate works. That is the way it worked when they passed the first START treaty in 5 days. We are now spending more time on this treaty than we did on a far more complicated treaty, at a far more complicated time. The fact is that if we go through today, which we will, on this treaty, and depending what happens with cloture and when the other side decides they want to vote, we can be here for 9 days on this treaty, which is more time than we would have spent on the START treaty, START II treaty, and the Moscow Treaty. With the time it took other Senates to deal with three treaties, these folks are complaining about the time to take one treaty, and it will be more time. It is astounding to me.

I hope people in the country will see through this. When the leader comes to the floor and says our national security is being driven by politics, we need to step back and calm down for a moment and think about what is at stake. This treaty is in front of the Senate now not because of some political schedule; it is here because the Republicans asked us to delay it. We wanted to hold this vote before the election. What was the argument then by our friends on the other side of the aisle? ``Oh, no, please don't do that; that will politicize the treaty.'' And so in order to not politicize the treaty, we made a decision on our side to accommodate their interests. Having accommodated their interests, they now turn around and say: You guys are terrible, you are bringing this treaty up at the last minute. Is there no shame ever with respect to the arguments that are made sometimes on the floor of the Senate? Is the idea always, just say it, say it enough, go out there and repeat it, and somewhere it will stick--maybe in the rightwing blogosphere or somewhere--and people will get agitated enough and believe this is being jammed somehow?

This is on the floor for the sixth day. It is a simple add-on treaty to everything that has gone before, over all the years of arms control. It is a simple add-on treaty and extension of the START I treaty.

This is not a new principle; it is not complicated. It is particularly not complicated when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and every prior Republican Secretary of State all say ratify this treaty, ratify it now. We need it now.

Honestly, I scratch my head and am baffled at the place we have seemingly arrived at, where national security interests of our country are going to get wrapped up in ideology, politics, and all of the things that have commanded everybody's attention over the course of the last couple of years.

We did have an election a few weeks ago. It has been much referred to by our colleagues. It did signal the need to do some things differently. One of the things it signaled the need to do differently is something like the START treaty, where the American people expect us to come to the floor and do the Nation's business, particularly the business of keeping America safer.

We have had an excellent debate so far. The two amendments that were proposed were rejected overwhelmingly--60 to 30 was the last one. We had a number of people who were absent. That is a pretty pronounced statement by the Senate. It seems to me the Senator from Kentucky just said the major argument for not approving one of those amendments was that it would require us to go back and renegotiate. No, Mr. Leader, that is not the major argument. That is an argument that underscores the major argument, which is that the language has no meaning. The language doesn't affect missile defense. The major arguments are the facts, the substance of which is that the preamble language has no impact whatsoever on what we are going to do with respect to missile defense, and everybody who has anything to do with missile defense in this administration has said that. That is the major argument. In addition, the major argument is also that Henry Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary Gates have all said that language that has no legal impact and is just an expression of a truism--the reality that offense and defense have a relationship.

Are we not capable in the Senate of overlooking nonbinding, nonlegal, nonimpacting language that acknowledges a simple truth about the relationship of offense and defense in the nature of arms control? That is all it does. That is the major argument. It just happens that in addition to having no impact on our defense, and no impact legally, and no impact that is binding--in addition to that, it also requires going back to the Russians and renegotiating the treaty. As we will show in the classified session today, there are a lot of reasons why that doesn't make sense from the security interests of the United States of America. It is not that we should not do our job of advice and consent, but our job of advice and consent requires us to process the facts, requires us to think seriously about what those facts are and how they impact this treaty.

If the Senate does its job of thinking seriously about this treaty, it will separate out language that has no impact and no meaning whatsoever on our national missile defense plans, or on the treaty itself. I don't know how the President could make it more clear than in the letter he wrote to the leadership, in which he said as clearly as possible:

The United States did not and does not agree with the Russian statement. We believe that continued development and deployment of U.S. missile defense systems, including qualitative and quantitative improvements to such systems, do not and will not threaten the strategic balance with the Russian Federation. Regardless of Russia's actions in this regard, as long as I am President, as long as the Congress provides the necessary funding, the United States will continue to develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect the United States, our deployed forces, and our allies and our partners.

I don't know how you can make it more clear than that. Those are the facts. It is my understanding that today the Joint Chiefs will all be submitting an additional statement for the record here to make it clear it is their view that this treaty has absolutely no negative impact whatsoever on our missile defense, and they believe it is entirely verifiable, and they want to see it ratified. So the issue of advice and consent here is whether we are going to follow the advice of those whom we look to on military matters, on defense intelligence matters, on security matters--those statespeople who have argued these treaties and negotiated these treaties through the years. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Chiefs, the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command--and this is Secretary Gates:

I assess that Russia will not be able to achieve militarily significant cheating or breakout under the New START. Our analysis of the NIE and potential for Russia cheating or breakout confirms the treaty's verification regime is effective.

I hope that facts will control this debate, that the security interests of our country will control this debate, that those who have created this record for the Senate to weigh--we have been on this treaty for a year and a half not just for 6 days. Sixty Members of the Senate--the Armed Services Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the National Intelligence Committee, the National Security Working Group, which I cochair with Senator Kyl--have all met and considered this treaty. Some people have gone to Geneva and actually met with the negotiators. The negotiators met with us here. Before the treaty was even signed, we were weighing in on this treaty. We considered it in over 21 hearings and meetings over the course of the last 6 months. This is not 6 days. Let's not kid the American people. This is not 6 days. Three other treaties, one of which had no verification at all--that treaty received a 95-to-0 vote.

The American people voted for us to stop the politics. They voted for us to act like adults and do the business of this country. I believe voting on this treaty in these next hours and days is our opportunity to live up to the hopes of the American people.

I yield the floor.


Mr. KERRY. I know the Senator from South Dakota is here. I know he wishes to speak. I will not be long. I wish to take advantage of this moment with the Senator from North Dakota on the floor to say a couple of things.

First of all, I am very grateful to him personally for the comments he has made about both my efforts and the efforts of Senator Lugar. I appreciate them enormously. But more importantly, the Senator is going to be leaving the Senate at the end of this session. I wish to say there are few Senators who combine as many qualities of ability as does the Senator from North Dakota. He is one of the most articulate Members of the Senate. He is one of the most diligent Members of the Senate. He is one of the most thoughtful Members of the Senate.

I have had the pleasure of serving with him on the Commerce Committee. I have seen how creative and determined he is with respect to the interests of consumers on Internet issues, on fairness issues, consumer issues in which he has taken an enormous interest. He has been head of the policy committee for I think almost 10 years or so. He has been responsible for making sure the rest of us are informed on issues. He has kept us up to date on the latest thinking. He has put together very provocative weekly meetings with some of the best minds in the country so we think about these things.

So I wanted to say to the Senator from North Dakota personally through the Chair how well served I think the citizens of North Dakota have been, how grateful we are for his service, and how extraordinarily lucky we have been to have someone representing one of the great 50 States as effectively as he has. I think he has been a superb Senator, and he will be much missed here.


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, before I say a few words about the amendment, let me see if I can get an agreement from my colleagues. We have a lot of colleagues asking when we are going to vote, and we need to have some votes. We have only had two votes on this treaty after 6 days. Obviously, I can move to table, but I do not want to do that, at least not yet.

I ask the Senator from South Dakota if we can set up a time to have a vote on his amendment at 12:30.

Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I say to the Senator from Massachusetts, we are prepared to debate. The Senator from Oklahoma wants to talk at length about the verification issue. I do not think we are prepared at this point to enter into a time agreement for any time certain on votes. Until we can get some indication from our colleagues who would like to speak on this amendment, it would be very difficult to do that.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I say to my colleague, we are getting into the sixth day of debate. Christmas is coming. It is surprising to me that we do not have any indication who would like to speak on this amendment.

Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I say to the Senator from Massachusetts, we do have others who want to speak, not only on this amendment but also on the amendment of the Senator from Oklahoma. These, as I said, are very significant, substantive amendments that deal fundamentally with the issues that are important to this treaty. I do not think we are prepared at this point to cut off that debate. Until we get some indication from some of our colleagues about who else might want to come down and speak to either of these issues, I object to entering into any kind of time agreement.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I accept that. The point I am trying to make is, we have allowed each of the prior amendments to come to an up-or-down vote. We have not tabled them, which is an often-used practice, as everybody knows. We could have debated all last night; there was nobody here to debate. Now we are here debating. We are happy to leave time for debate. But I ask my colleagues if they could inquire into who might want to come so we could at least, out of courtesy to our colleagues, give them a sense of what the schedule might be, and then we can set a time for that debate allowing everybody adequate time.

I am not suggesting in any way that the topics we are discussing are not important. They are important, and they are worthy of debate and are worthy of discussion. We welcome that discussion.

Mr. INHOFE. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. KERRY. I yield for a question.

Mr. INHOFE. In addition to what Senator Thune said, there are several people who said they want to go into closed session first and address issues having to do with my amendment and his amendment before a vote.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I respect that. I am perfectly comfortable if we are able to set a time after that closed session. I think everybody would feel good if we can find the time. I understand the need to want to have that session. That is the Senator's right, and we respect that. We certainly can do it. Maybe we can find a time when we come out of that session when we can have a couple of votes back to back. I think that would help a lot of people.

I thank the Senator from South Dakota for his amendment. It is one that is worthy of some discussion. Obviously, some of that discussion is going to have to take place in the context of a classified session.

He said one of the arguments that will be used is that this will result in going back to the Russians and having to renegotiate the treaty. That is not a casual argument. It is not a small thing. But it is not the principal reason--it is one of the reasons, obviously, I think this amendment is ill-advised. But, most importantly, this amendment is unnecessary.

All of us on our side have a very clear understanding of the importance of delivery vehicles with respect to our national defense. But here is what we have to balance the comments of the Senator from South Dakota against: the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, and others have all determined that we can safely reduce our deployed ICBMs and our deployed SLBMs and our deployed heavy bombers--the three legs of the triad--that they could be reduced to the 700 number.

That figure was picked, obviously, after an enormous amount of thinking by all of those parties concerned--the Strategic Command, the Air Force folks, the Navy SLBM--and they did so only after seeing the results of force-on-force analyses of exactly where that would leave us in terms of America's response should there--happily in the current atmosphere--be the unlikely event of a nuclear confrontation. Obviously, we need to think about these issues in that larger context of where we are today, what direction we are moving in, and what is the reality.

As the Senator knows, without going into any details, that force-on-force determination was made not just in the likelihood of a Russian-U.S. confrontation but in a multiparty confrontation. Again, we will discuss some of that later.

The gravamen of the Senator's complaint is that he is concerned that the administration has failed to thus far state precisely how it is going to reduce the deployed ICBMs--intercontinental ballistic missiles--and the SLBMs--submarine-launched ballistic missiles--and heavy bombers, how do we meet the treaty's requirement of 700. I want the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee to weigh in.

I will say quickly, the administration has made it clear that it intends to maintain 20 launchers on the 12 ballistic missile submarines that we keep operationally deployed, meaning our submarine force will account for 240 of the 700 limit. We agree on that. That leaves room for 460 deployed delivery vehicles combined from the two other legs of the triad--from the ICBMs and from the heavy bomber forces.

The Senator also said the administration has said in its 1251 report that it has not made a final decision on going all the way up to the 420 ICBMs or all the way up to 60 bombers or somewhere in between. That decision has not been made.

In other words, out of the total deployed delivery vehicle limit of 700, the administration has left itself some room to maneuver, to make a decision on 20 of its ICBMs and bombers.

Under the agreement, we have 7 years of room before we

have to meet that limit. When asked about this sort of available time of 7 years, General Chilton, the commander of our Strategic Command, told the Armed Services Committee for the record:

The force structure construct, as reported in the section 1251 report, is sufficient to meet the Nation's strategic deterrence mission. Furthermore, the New START treaty provides flexibility to manage the force drawdown while maintaining an effective and safe strategic deterrent.

As a technical matter, the Senator's amendment would require the President to go back to the Russians, move the limit up from 700 to 720, even though the military is perfectly comfortable with the level we have. That is when we begin to get into the question, if they are telling us that this is good and comfortable and we can do what we need to do in this context, I might add, of a very different Russia, very different United States, very different set of strategic demands at this moment, why would we reopen the treaty for renegotiation?

I have more to say, particularly on the subject of the Prompt Global Strike because the Prompt Global Strike likewise is not impacted negatively by this, and there are a number of reasons we have options as to how we arm certain legs in the triad and what we choose to do.

It is important to point out also--I think this is important--there may be some concern. I understand the geography of the Senator's representation, so there may be some concern from some Senators, and the comments that the Senator made that those of you who have people concerned with the ICBM bases or the SLBM bases or the bomber bases need to be focused on this, let me be clear that the administration has made it clear. None of the three ICBM bases are going to be closed because of the New START treaty. We are maintaining all of them.

What is more, the administration has made it clear that it is committed to the ICBM force in the years to come. In its updated 1251 report, the Minuteman III will remain in service through 2030 and then be replaced by a follow-on ICBM to be determined.

If people are concerned about cutting bombers, Senators should remember that to meet the New START's limits, we are not going to need to eliminate any bombers. We plan to simply convert some bombers to a conventional role, at which point they will no longer count toward the treaty limits.

With that stated as part of the Record, I yield 5 minutes, or such time as the Senator from Michigan would like to consume, to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, it was my understanding that we had an informal arrangement that we would go back and forth. I would like to be recognized.

Mr. KERRY. I completely understand that. We had the two Senators speak. I would like to yield to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee for 5 minutes and then come back.


Mr. KERRY. Madam President, of course, we will accommodate, hopefully, some brief statements prior to the votes, and I am confident we can agree on some reasonable period, hopefully, not more than 5 minutes or something like that, to summarize.

But let me say to my friend from Arizona, because I heard him saying fairly passionately: What is the point of having the Senate involved if it cannot advise and consent and cannot amend the treaty, none of us on our side are arguing we should not have that right, that we do not have that right, that this is not a worthy debate, and that we should not debate a legitimate attempt to amend the treaty.

That is not what we are saying. In fact, if I thought it was a flawed treaty and if I thought there were enormous gaps in it, I would try to amend the treaty, I am sure. I think if that were true, we wouldn't have had a 60-to-30 vote against doing it yesterday. Sixty Senators made the judgment that we don't want to; we don't think it rises to that level.

I would simply say to my colleague, it is not that the amendment--that we shouldn't have the debate and that somehow not doing this now rejects the notion that we are capable of doing it; it is that we don't think it is a good amendment. We don't think the amendment rises to the level where it raises an issue that it merits sending the treaty back to the Russians.

So we will retain that right--and I will protect that as long as I am a Senator--to give that proper advice and consent. But I believe we gave the proper advice and consent and we rejected an amendment, as I hope we will reject these other two amendments, and I will further the arguments with respect to that later.

I think the Senator from Pennsylvania is waiting for time.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania.

Mr. KERRY. Madam President, I ask the indulgence of the Senator from Pennsylvania for a moment. Let me also reiterate I don't know where this constant questioning of the triad keeps coming from, because the Secretary of Defense, in testimony as well as in letters, not to mention the Defense Department through the Joint Chiefs and then others, have repeatedly stated their commitment to a viable, forward-going triad. The triad is not in question here. There will be a triad, we are committed to the triad, and I will have something more to say about that later.

I yield the floor, and I thank my colleague.


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