Transcript of Lott's morning remarks (4/24/97)
Lott Will Vote For Treaty
Majority leader's support bodes well for chemical weapons pact; 'killer' amendments start to fall
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 24) -- The tea leaves are beginning to settle, and passage of the Chemical Weapons Convention looks assured. Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) announced on the floor of the Senate that he would support the pact, and the most severe of the so-called "killer" amendments was struck down by a wide margin.
"I have decided to vote in support of the Senate giving its advice and consent of the Chemical Weapons Convention," Lott said simply this afternoon. (448K wav sound)
The Senate began voting this afternoon on whether to strike five amendments from the legislation that would ratify the treaty. Four of these had been dubbed "killer" amendments by treaty proponents, who said that if they passed would prevent the U.S. from ever truly ratifying the pact.
The first one, which would have required that certain "rogue states" sign and ratify the treaty before the U.S. would formally ratify it, was removed from the treaty resolution by a vote of 71-29. This margin was far more than the simple majority needed to remove it, and above the two-thirds majority (67) that the treaty itself needs for ratification.
This first amendment was considered a deal-breaker because such states as Libya, Iraq and North Korea will likely never sign the treaty, thus keeping the U.S. from ever ratifying it.
Lott's vote was not among the 71 in favor of striking the amendment; he told reporters later that he expected the treaty to pass 72-28.
The Senate will vote on the other four amendments as the evening progresses, and the final vote on ratification of the treaty is expected sometime tonight.
Lott began to signal this morning that he might support the pact after he revealed a letter from President Bill Clinton that apparently assuaged the Republican leader's concerns about the pact. (192K wav sound)
Calling the Clinton letter "an ironclad commitment ... unprecedented," Lott said the president promised to withdraw the U.S. from the Chemical Weapons Treaty under three specific circumstances: 1) if the treaty is used to justify degrading U.S. defensive capabilities; 2) if Australia Group export controls are eroded by the treaty; and 3) if the treaty promotes proliferation of chemical weapons.
Lott declined to say this morning that the letter was enough to make him vote for the treaty, but he called it a "major, dramatic" move that "has affected" his thinking. Lott's reluctance to make a definitive statement early in the day was apparently an effort not to influence several preliminary floor votes on amendments important to conservative Republicans.
CNN's Candy Crowley contributed to this report.
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