September 07, 2016

Corker Warns Against Obama U.N. Plan to Endorse Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned against an emerging plan by the Obama administration to endorse an international ban on nuclear testing at the United Nations (U.N.) without Senate approval. The committee held a hearing today to examine the legal consequences from such action and the implications for the Senate’s constitutional authority to provide advice and consent prior to U.S. ratification of treaties.

“I just want to make sure that we are not allowing an administration on the way out the door to do something that ends up binding us through customary international law down the road in taking actions at the U.N. Security Council that I would deem inappropriate if that were the case,” said Corker at today’s hearing. “I have watched through the years, and the responsibilities of the United States Senate have eroded. And I am just here today with this hearing and pushing back against the administration to try to make sure we do everything we can to ensure that is not something that continues.”

The administration is considering offering a resolution at the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) that could reinforce the objectives of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) as international law without a two-thirds vote of the United States Senate. In October 1999, the Senate rejected ratification of the CTBT by a vote of 51 to 48.

After the State Department provided details about the nature of the resolution under consideration, Corker wrote a letter to President Obama in August explaining how certain language could impose international legal obligations on the United States by affirming a U.S. commitment against nuclear testing.

“By signing onto language declaring avoidance of nuclear weapons testing to be essential to the ‘object and purpose’ of the CTBT, the State Department is in effect submitting the United States to the restrictions of a treaty that has not entered into force,” wrote Corker. “Regardless of one’s view about the necessity of nuclear testing, seeking to limit a future administration through a customary international law mechanism, when your administration has only four months left in office, is inappropriate.”

The committee heard testimony today from former Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker and Michael Krepon, the co-founder of the Stimson Center.

Rademaker said the Obama administration’s view that the U.S. has existing obligations related to the CTBT defies the Senate’s rejection of the treaty and the interpretation of the George W. Bush administration.

“I am surprised that the Obama administration would today take the view that the United States has an obligation under international law not to defeat the object and purpose of the treaty,” Rademaker wrote in his written testimony. “And I find it astonishing that the administration would consider asking other governments and the UNSC to endorse its position on the issue, given the serious separation of powers concerns that position raises under the U.S. Constitution.”