Mr. DASCHLE. Madam President, the Senate today is being presented with an opportunity that is as rare as it is important. For the second time in less than 3 weeks, the Senate is being asked to give its advice and consent on a major arms control treaty: the flank agreement to the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty.
Late last month, the Senate had placed before it the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC]. After much debate, the Senate resoundingly rebuffed several attempts by the treaty's opponents to scuttle it, and eventually passed CWC with the support of 74 Senators.
Now many have questioned the length to which CWC opponents went in their efforts to kill or delay Senate consideration of this treaty. I share some of those concerns. However, in the end, when the Senate was finally allowed to take up the CWC treaty, I would argue that the ensuing floor debate on the CWC treaty represented the Senate at its best. Senators discussed honest disagreements on issues directly related to the CWC treaty, carefully weighed those discussions, and finally voted up or down on those issues and, ultimately, the treaty itself. In short, during the actual floor debate of the CWC treaty, we saw the Senate acting in a responsible and exemplary fashion.
I am confident that if we had this same kind of debate on the CFE treaty, we would see the same result. In fact, the margin would probably be significantly greater for CFE than for CWC. I have listened carefully to the comments of my fellow Senators on for their views on this important agreement and have yet to hear a single Senator voice his or her opposition to the CFE treaty. This was true before the Foreign Relations Committee attached 13 CWC-related conditions and it is especially true after. As a result, Senate support for the CFE agreement itself probably exceeds the 74 who voted for the CWC.
Unfortunately, the Senate is being prevented from considering the CFE treaty in the same fashion we considered the CWC. We are not being allowed to look at just the CFE treaty and issues directly related to it. Instead, the time for Senate consideration of the CFE treaty is likely to be spent largely on a wholly unrelated issue--the ABM treaty and opponents efforts to undermine it.
Now, I understand this is an important issue to many members on the other side of the aisle. And, I know that Senators are well within their rights to attach unrelated matters to most types of legislation we consider.
However, I disagree with the proponents of the ABM condition on the merits and I especially disagree with them on their methods. On the merits, the administration's lawyers argue persuasively that the Constitution assigns the exclusive responsibility to the President to determine the successor states to any treaty when an original party dissolves, to make whatever adjustments might be required to accomplish such succession, and to enter into agreements for this purpose. Increasing the number of states participating in a treaty due to the dissolution of an original party does not itself constitute a substantive modification of obligations assumed. This is the view of the administration's lawyers. This is also the view of the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service in a legal review they conducted last year.
As for their methods, I think it is both unfortunate and short-sighted to use a treaty that is in our national security interests as a vehicle for advancing a totally unrelated political agenda. The principal sponsors of this condition have previously made no secret of the fact that they would like to see the United States walk away from the entire ABM treaty and immediately begin spending tens of billions of dollars to build a star wars type missile defense. With this act, they have now revealed the lengths they are willing to go to force their views on this Senate and this administration.
Nevertheless, that is what has been done. Senators are now faced with a difficult choice: vote for this treaty in spite of the unacceptable ABM condition or against it because of the ABM language. This is an extremely close call for many of us.
In the end, Madam President, we must support this treaty. We must do so for two reasons. First, the treaty is still fundamentally in our strategic interest. Failure to pass this treaty now could unravel both the CFE agreement as well as any future efforts to enhance security arrangements in Europe. Second, the administration, which must ultimately decide how to deal with the objectionable ABM condition, has indicated that we should vote for this treaty now and let them work out what to do about this provision later. It is for these reasons that I cast my vote in support of this treaty and urge my colleagues to do the same.