CWC Opponents Succeed in Delaying Senate Vote

By Pfeiffer, Tom | Arms Control Today, September 1996 | Go to article overview

CWC Opponents Succeed in Delaying Senate Vote


Pfeiffer, Tom, Arms Control Today


OPPONENTS OF the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) succeeded at the 11th hour in derailing the long-awaited Senate vote on the accord, forcing supporters to remove the treaty from the Senate calendar on September 12 to avoid the possible defeat of the treaty or the adoption of "poison pill" amendments to the resolution of ratification that would have effectively blocked U.S. ratification. Senate consideration of the CWC, signed by President George Bush in January 1993, will now be delayed until the 105th Congress convenes in January 1997, when the treaty will once again be subject to committee review.

Although the two-thirds Senate majority required to approve the resolution seemed assured in the weeks leading up to the September 14 Senate voting deadline, opposition to the treaty-led by Senators Jesse Helms (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jon Kyl (R-AZ)-appeared to gain momentum after the August congressional recess and quickly coalesced in early September.

On September 9, Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration defense official and the CWC's most vocal critic, circulated a letter signed by 40 former national security officials-including former secretaries of defense Caspar Weinberger and Richard Cheney-urging rejection of the treaty "unless and until it is made genuinely global, effective and verifiable." CWC opponents argue that the treaty will not address the chemical weapons programs of those states that remain outside the convention, and that despite its unprecedented verification and inspection regime the treaty will not be able to detect all violations.

Under the terms of the unanimous consent agreement introduced by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) on June 28 that scheduled the CWC vote in the Senate, the majority leader, or his designee, could introduce two amendments to the resolution of ratification. Treaty opponents reportedly were going to propose amendments mandating that U.S. intelligence certify the CWC could be verified with high confidence and that the deposit of the U.S. instrument of ratification be contingent on prior ratification by Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria. Although these amendments were never formally presented, CWC supporters considered their probable formulation would ensure the United States could never deposit its instrument of ratification. …

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CWC Opponents Succeed in Delaying Senate Vote
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