Albright Visits Helms Country (3/26/97)
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Senate Vote On Chemical Weapons Treaty Still Unclear
Helms says "they're not going to push me around"
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 10) -- Even as lawmakers were predicting the Chemical Weapons Convention could pass the Senate with the required two-thirds vote, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jesse Helms continued to throw up roadblocks, planning more hearings for next week.
Approved by 70 nations, the Chemical Weapons Convention takes effect April 29 with or without Senate action. The treaty, which has considerable bipartisan support in the U.S., bans the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons.
An avid backer, President Bill Clinton last week called for swift Senate action, and late Wednesday he met with several senators, including Connecticut Democrat Joseph Lieberman, Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter and Indiana Republican Richard Lugar to rally their support. Specter said he expects Helms (R-N.C.) will ultimately allow a vote.
But not, apparently, without a fight. After cordial meetings with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Helms was seen as softening his opposition. But after numerous hearings on the treaty, including a three-hour session Wednesday, Helms was still complaining the treaty is unenforceable and could compromise U.S. business interests. He's announced plans for more hearings next week.
"In it present form," Helms told reporters, it "is not good for the American people." And of efforts to bypass his committee, he said, "They're not going to push me around."
Backers had hoped for a vote next week, but now the schedule is muddied. Yesterday, Sen. Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) told reporters Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) had promised to work for a vote next week, though Lott later said he'd made no commitment.
Helms has proposed several amendments, which are unlikely to pass since they would effectively kill the existing treaty, which many nations have approved. Among Helms' proposed amendments:
Wednesday's hearing included former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, who proposed changes to the treaty's governing board. Retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft testified that America's interests were best served by ratifying the treaty and working from within to correct its flaws.
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