WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took to the Senate floor today to outline his decision to support the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) treaty.
Corker’s remarks, as transcribed, follow. Video footage is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1TU3wWezro.
“There is nothing that I think most of us care about more than our country being secure. I’ve got two daughters that are 21 and 23, a wonderful wife, extended family, like every member in this room, and there is nothing that I take more seriously than making sure that our country is secure,” said Corker.
“And so as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when we entered into discussions regarding the START treaty, I attended 11 of the 12 hearings. I have been in multiple classified meetings. I have spoken with military leaders across our country. I have been in so many intelligence briefings, I have begun to speak like an intelligence officer. So, *Mr. President, I have taken this responsibility very, very seriously.
“I want to say that there are numbers of people that, obviously, are still making up their mind regarding this treaty, and that’s why I came to the floor.
“One of the things that we do when we end up ratifying a treaty is we have something called a resolution of ratification, and no doubt this treaty was negotiated by the president and his team, the secretary of state and others who work with Secretary Clinton, and no doubt that is done by people on the other side of the aisle.
“But what I’d like to bring people’s attention to today is this: whenever we ratify a treaty, we do so through something called a resolution of ratification, and for those who might not have been involved in the markup, I’d like for everyone in this body to know that this resolution of ratification, thanks to the goodwill of the chairman of our committee, was mostly drafted by Republicans. It was drafted with the approval, certainly, of the chairman, but this was drafted by Senator Lugar, by myself; Senator Kyl had tremendous input into this, [as did] Senator Isakson. And so the resolution of ratification that we’re amending today had tremendous Republican input. As a matter of fact, it was done mostly by Republicans. As a matter of fact, this resolution of ratification is called the Lugar-Corker resolution. This is what came out of committee.
“One of the things that has concerned people on both sides of the aisle has been this whole issue of modernization. And, Mr. President, I have seen something of beauty over the last year. About a year ago, I met with Senator Kyl in the Senate Dining Room, and we began looking at the modernization of our nuclear arsenal. Many people have focused during this debate on the fact that we have 1,550 warheads as a limitation, if you will, in this treaty, but they fail to realize we have over 5,000 warheads in our nuclear arsenal, all of which need to be modernized, all of which are getting ready to be obsolete if we don’t make the investment. As a matter of fact, the presiding officer now visited some of the labs throughout our country. There are seven facilities that we have in this country that deal with our nuclear arsenal, and many of those are becoming obsolete and need to have needed investment. I have watched Senator Kyl over the last year in a very methodical way. Under his leadership, with me as his wing man and others [we have worked] to make sure that the proper modernization of our nuclear arsenal takes place, and there is no question in my mind, if it weren’t for the discussion of this treaty, we would not have the commitments that we have today on modernization.
“Mr. President, this is the 1251 report that is required by defense authorization. This has been [submitted and updated], due to the efforts of Republicans led by Senator Kyl who has done an outstanding job. This has been updated twice. First we had a five-year update about 60 days ago. We had a ten-year update that came thereafter. This is our nuclear modernization plan. And I’d like to have unanimous consent to enter this into the record as part of this debate. Mr. Corker: Mr. President, the reason I’d like to enter that into the record, over the next ten years, what this calls for is $86 billion worth of investment throughout the seven facilities throughout our country on nuclear armaments, and over $100 billion on the delivery mechanisms to ensure that these warheads are deliverable.
“So one might say well, that’s great, but how are we going to be sure? How are we going to be sure that the appropriators actually ask for the money? Mr. President, I’d also like to enter into the record a letter that was signed on December 16 by Chairman Inouye, Dianne Feinstein, Thad Cochran and Lamar Alexander. Mr. President, that letter says to the president [Obama] that they will ask for the moneys necessary to modernize our nuclear arsenal, and that they agree to ask for that money as part of their appropriations bill.
“So then you might say well, what about the president? Will the president actually in his budget ask Congress to ask for that money? I’d like to ask unanimous consent to have a letter from the president of the United States on December 20 to the appropriators saying that he, in fact, would ask for those funds in the budget that he puts forth in the next few months. I would like unanimous consent for this to be entered into the record.
“Mr. President, there has been a lot of discussion about many things, and I’m going to move to missile defense in just one moment, but I don’t think there is anything, as it relates to nuclear issues, that threatens our national security more than our not investing in the arsenal that we have. And I think what we have seen here is a commitment both by appropriators on the Senate side, the president of the United States, those within the NNSA and our military complex believing that modernization has to occur, and candidly, the only thing today that would keep us from actually doing modernization the way it needs to be done would be Republican appropriators.
“So I just want to say to my friends on this side of the aisle that it seems to me that through Senator Kyl’s efforts and the efforts of people working in a cooperative way, we have been very successful in getting the commitments that we need on modernization. And by the way, I would add I do not think we would be talking about the issue of modernization today, something that hasn’t been done for many, many years to this scale, we would not be talking about that if it weren’t for discussion of this start treaty. And so, Mr. President, what I would say to you is I think we have enhanced our country’s national security just by having this debate.
“And, Mr. President, I would say that we have sought and received commitments that otherwise we would not have received if it weren’t for discussion of this treaty, and the two are very related. I’ve heard a lot of people say well, there is no real relationship between the two. There is a lot of relationship between the two, in that I think that Americans want to know if we’re going to limit ourselves to 1,550 warheads, that we know that they operate, that we know that they can be delivered, and that we know that the thousands of warheads that we have that are not deployed are warheads that will be kept up.
“We’ve talked a lot about missile defense, Mr. President, and I just want to say I have been through every word of this treaty. I have been through every word of the annexes. I have been through every word of the protocols. I have been in countless briefings, and, Mr. President, I’d like to say that there is nothing in this treaty that limits our missile defense other than the fact that we cannot convert ICBM launchers that we use on the offense for missile defense, something that our military leaders do not want to do. That is the most expensive way of creating a missile defense system. That’s something they do not want to do.
“So there have been a lot of discussions brought up because in the preamble, something was stated that was nonbinding, and so how do we clear that up? Where’s the letter? We clear that up by virtue of a letter that the president has sent to us absolutely committing to the missile defense system that is now being deployed in Europe, absolutely committing to a national defense system. And people might say well, but there is no commitment. Mr. President, I have reasonable assurance that by the time this debate ends, that we will codify this commitment as part of the resolution of ratification. We will codify the operative words in the president’s language committing to all four phases of that missile defense system in Europe, commit to doing those things we need to do as it relates to our national defense system, and making that a part of the resolution of ratification.
“Mr. President, what I would say to you is I doubt very seriously that we would have received the types of commitments from the president as it relates to missile defense today if we weren’t debating this treaty.
“Mr. President, I’d like to ask unanimous consent that Senator Lamar Alexander be added as a cosponsor to my amendment (no. 4904) dealing with ensuring that the president’s language becomes a part of this resolution of ratification.
“Mr. President, let me come to my last paragraph by saying this: it’s obviously up to us as senators, we’re the ones that have the right and the responsibility and the privilege to take up the types of matters that we’re taking up today. It’s up to us to do the due diligence, to have the intelligence briefings, to look at our nuclear posture reviews, to look at what this treaty itself says, to look at what our force structure is. That’s our responsibility, and it’s up to each of us, the 100 of us in this body, to decide whether we ratify this treaty.
“But I think it’s also at least interesting to get input from others. And one of the things that our side of the aisle likes to do and say is we like to listen to military leaders, what they have to say about issues relating to war, Afghanistan, Iraq, and certainly the issue of how we enter into nuclear treaties with other countries.
“Mr. President, I’d like to ask unanimous consent that we enter into the record today a letter to Senator Kerry from the Joint Chiefs of Staff talking about their firm, firm commitment for the START treaty on the basis that it increases our national security. I’d like to ask unanimous consent that this letter, dated December 20, from Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of our joint chiefs, be entered into the record.
“Mr. President, I’d like to point out, too, just for clarification that if you look at the makeup of our joint chiefs, Admiral Mullen, General Cartwright, General Schwartz, General Casey, Admiral Roughhead, every single one of these gentlemen was appointed by a Republican president. In addition to them, we have General Amos. My sense is, based on some of the comments he’s made over the course of time, he would have Republican leanings. But each of these people have firmly stated their support for this treaty.
“And then in closing, Mr. President, I’d like to also add and ask unanimous consent that the statement of Robert Gates -- again, appointed by a Republican president -- head of our Defense Department [be entered into the record]. Yesterday he said,‘the treaty will enhance the strategic stability at lower numbers of nuclear weapons, provide a rigorous inspection regime, including on-site access to Russian missile silos, strengthen our leadership role in stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and provide the necessary flexibility to structure our strategic nuclear forces to best meet the national security interests. This treaty stands on its merits and its prompt ratification will strengthen U.S. national security.’
“There’s been a lot of discussion, Mr. President, about the role of the Senate in this ratification. There are a lot of things that go into the ratification of a treaty, and I’ve laid out a number of things that we’ve discussed that are relevant to the ratification of this treaty. As we move through a process like this, Mr. President, I try to make sure that all of the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted that can possibly be crossed and dotted to ensure that a United States senator feels comfortable that the type of agreement that we’re entering into is one in the best interest of our country.
“Mr. President, I have done that over the last year working on nuclear modernization, and, again, my hat’s off to Senator Kyl and his great leadership in that regard. I have done that over the course of this last year as we’ve looked at missile defense. We spent incredible amounts of time in our committee making sure that people on my side of the aisle had tremendous input into the resolution of ratification. We’ve worked through to make sure that if we’re going to have less warheads deployed -- again, we have thousands more that are not deployed -- that we, in fact, can assure the American people that they’ll operate, that they’re actually there for our national security.
“So, Mr. President, the question becomes to me, and for all of us – all of us – who care so deeply about our country’s national security, is: will we say “yes” to yes?
“Mr. President, I firmly believe that signing this treaty, that ratifying this treaty, and that all the things that we’ve done over the course of time as a result of this treaty are in our country’s national interest. And I’m here today to state my full support for this treaty. I look forward to its ratification. And I hope many others will join me in that process.”
*Note: “Mr. President” throughout refers to the presiding officer of the Senate.