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“Watered Down” Kyl Amendment Passes

Posted by Laicie Olson on July 31, 2009

Late in the evening on July 23rd, the Senate passed a new, slightly weaker, version of Senator Jon Kyl's (R-AZ) Amendment (S.1760). Kyl-lite, you could say. The new amendment requires the President to report on the Administration's plans to "enhance the safety, security, and reliability" of the United States nuclear weapons stockpile, modernize the nuclear weapons complex, and maintain nuclear weapons delivery systems.

To the relief of many, the word "modernize" is used only in terms of the nuclear weapons complex, not the stockpile itself. This is not as large of a blow to nonproliferation policy as was originally anticipated. Senator Kerry (D-MA) made it clear in his floor statement that this is not about new nuclear weapons. He said that the amendment is defining enhancements carried out to the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program, a program that simply replaces old parts with news ones to keep nuclear warheads safe, secure and reliable. Unfortunately, this may not be the view held by the entire Senate.

Kingston Reif states on Nukes of Hazard:

Sen. Kyl likely had to retract his original amendment because he couldn't find 33 additional Republicans (or hawkish Dem's such as Liebermann, Ben Nelson, or Begich) willing to aid him in his efforts to sabotage the START follow-on negotiations while they're still ongoing (34 votes will be required to defeat the Treaty). This bodes well for the prospects of a START follow-on treaty when it comes to the Senate floor, likely sometime next spring.

The amendment is still far from perfect, however, and its original intent lays out the agenda of the opposition within the U.S. Senate to ratification of the follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) Treaty. The START follow-on is essential to facilitate nuclear reduction between the United States and Russia, since it calls for verifiable reductions in not only nuclear weapons in both nations, but also their delivery vehicles. This is one of several amendments Senator Kyl attempted to pass which looks to weaken U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy.


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