12 October 1999
Congressional Report, Tuesday, October 12(CTBT status in Senate) (430) Senators Still Seek Way Out as CTBT Vote Nears Key Democratic and Republican senators October 12 continued feverish backstage efforts to call off an impending vote on ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in the face of certain defeat for the arms control measure if it does come to a vote. The Clinton administration and its mostly Democratic supporters on the issue say that a defeat would mark a serious setback for arms control efforts in the world and a major embarrassment for the United States in its world leadership role. As of late afternoon, all efforts for delay undertaken to that point had failed as hardcore Republican opponents of the treaty remained steadfast in their determination to proceed to a final vote, either later in the evening or on October 13. All sides agree that the CTBT could not possibly muster the two-thirds affirmative vote needed for ratification if a vote did, in fact, occur. With scheduled floor debate time on the treaty proposal just about used up, the Senate temporarily turned its attention to an agriculture spending measure as maneuvering in search of a compromise solution continued behind the scenes. President Clinton on October 11 had acceded to a Republican demand that he formally request the vote delay that he wanted. In a letter to Majority (Republican) Leader Trent Lott and Minority (Democratic) Leader Tom Daschle, he said that proceeding with a negative vote would "severely harm the national security of the United States." But he declined to promise specifically -- as Republicans further asked -- that he would not press for reconsideration of the treaty during the final 15 months of his presidency. White House Spokesman Joe Lockhart said October 12 that such a written pledge would send the "destructive message" that "we're out of the non-proliferation business until 2001....That is not a responsible position for a president of the United States to take, and he will not take it," Lockhart said. Under one scenario being considered by Senate Democrats -- and floated to key Republicans -- the senators themselves, rather than the president, would undertake a pledge to withhold further efforts on behalf of the treaty until after the next election. Earlier, Democrats had considered deferring a substantive vote by interposing a procedural vote that would require only 51 "ayes" -- rather than 67 -- to pass. But Republicans, who hold an absolute majority, reportedly decided to vote as a bloc against such a motion.