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McGovern, Markey Lead Expansive Legislation to Halt Dangerous 21st Century Nuclear Arms Race

“HALT” Act calls for renewed U.S. leadership to negotiate a multilateral freeze on testing, production, and further deployment of nuclear weapons

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Washington, June 19, 2020 | comments

WORCESTER -- Today, Congressman James P. McGovern (MA-02), Chairman of the House Rules Committee, alongside Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced introduction of the bicameral Hastening Arms Limitation Talks (HALT) Act, legislation outlining a vision for a 21st century nuclear freeze movement.

The HALT Act comes 38 years to the week after one-million people gathered in New York’s Central Park to promote a nuclear weapons freeze – the largest such peace demonstration in U.S. history. Experts credit the freeze movement with creating the political will necessary for the negotiation of bilateral arms control treaties between the United States and former Soviet Union, and then Russia. However, the Trump administration appears poised to let lapse the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, which would leave the leading two nuclear-weapon powers without an in-force bilateral treaty on strategic arms for the first time since 1972.

Joining Senator Markey and Chairman McGovern as co-sponsors of the HALT Act are Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Representatives Dina Titus (NV-01) and Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)

“Our country is going in the wrong direction on nuclear disarmament and arms control.  Instead of working to lower the threat of nuclear weapons, President Trump has withdrawn the United States from treaty after treaty that limit the use and deployment of nuclear weapons,” said Chairman McGovern. “He’s even announced that he wants to start explosive nuclear testing again. This is not an academic debate – our world has come perilously close to a catastrophic nuclear war before, and every day the president’s actions are making such an event more and more likely. It’s time to hit the brakes on his dangerous escalation, honor our existing treaty obligations, and then put an end to nuclear weapons before they put an end to us. Given all the turmoil in the United States, rather than spending money on more weapons of mass destruction, we ought to be spending money here at home on our communities, our schools and our infrastructure.”

“President Trump has put Americans at a higher risk of experiencing nuclear war than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” said Senator Markey. “He has abandoned the INF Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty, has deployed a destabilizing new nuclear warhead that makes nuclear war-fighting more attractive, and is threatening to expose a new generation of Americans to the radioactive plumes resulting from nuclear tests. The HALT Act calls for a 21st century nuclear freeze movement and creates a blueprint for nuclear-weapons powers to reduce the risk posed by these weapons of mass destruction. We need to extend the U.S.-Russia New START Treaty. We need to finally bring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force and negotiate an agreement capping fissile material to prevent new countries from acquiring nuclear weapons. And we need to prevent those nations that already have them from pursuing new, deadlier weapons designs. The HALT Act aims to freeze the further global deployment of nuclear weapons and uphold the Cold War-ending creed that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought’.” 

“We are at a dangerous point in our nation’s history. New START, our last bilateral arms control treaty with Russia, will expire in February if action is not taken to extend it,” said Senator Feinstein. “If we continue down this path, the world’s major nuclear powers will be completely unregulated for the first time since the Cold War. We must return to the agreements that for decades have prevented costly arms races and lessened the chances for nuclear war. This bill is crucial.”

“President Trump is abandoning the international framework that has kept Americans safe from the threat of nuclear war for decades,” said Rep. Titus. “We must not encourage other nations to obtain or test nuclear weapons. This legislation would help prevent the Trump administration from restarting the arms race and needlessly putting Nevadans and all Americans in danger.”

“While it’s no surprise that President Trump is making another reckless decision, our nuclear arsenal is not a reality TV prop,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “There is no reason for us to be conducting tests of these incredibly destructive weapons at a time when we should be deescalating tensions around the world. This legislation would put us on the right track and treat nuclear weapons like a deadly armament, not a political tool that will put our very existence at risk.”

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.  

Specifically, the HALT Act makes it U.S. policy to:

  • Agree to extend the New START Treaty for five years, until February 5, 2026, through mutual agreement with the Russian Federation;
  • Negotiate a verifiable Fissile Material Treaty or Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty in the United Nations (UN) Conference on Disarmament or another international forum; 
  • Convene disarmament summits to reduce stocks of weapons-usable nuclear material;
  • Seek U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and mobilize all countries covered by Annex 2 of the CTBT to pursue similar action necessary for entry-into-force of the treaty; 
  • Engage with all other countries that possess nuclear weapons to negotiate and conclude future multilateral arms control, disarmament, and risk reduction agreements; and 
  • Prohibit funds to prepare for or to conduct “explosive nuclear-weapon testing” in fiscal year 2021 or any future year. 

“President Trump’s reported proposal to resume nuclear testing is dangerous and must be stopped. New US testing would not bring China to the negotiating table, as Trump may hope, but could lead to China and Russia resuming their testing as well. We thank Sen Markey for his leadership with the HALT ACT to ensure that Congress has oversight over nuclear testing,” said William J. Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense (1994-1997). 

“We are at one of the most perilous junctures in the long-running effort to reduce the threat of nuclear war and eliminate nuclear weapons. This legislation points the way forward to saner nuclear policies and a safer future for this generation and future generations,” said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association.

“In 1982, the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, a predecessor to Peace Action, helped organize one million marchers demanding the ‘freeze and reduction of all nuclear weapons and a transfer of military budgets to human needs’ through the streets of New York to a rally in Central Park. By decimating arms control treaties, pondering new nuclear tests and squandering billions in new nuclear weapons, the Trump administration threatens the United States’ security.  This important legislation, by arms control leader Senator Ed Markey, takes the spirt of the Freeze movement and makes a large leap towards making Americans safe again,” said Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director, Policy and Political Affairs, Peace Action.  

“Thirty-eight years ago around 1,000,000 people came to New York’s Central Park to call for a Nuclear Freeze. Now President Trump is leading us back into a nuclear arms race. Rep. Markey was there in 1982, and Sen. Markey is still working to reduce nuclear threats to the United States. We thank him for his leadership on the HALT Act,” said Tom Collina, Policy Director, Ploughshares Fund. 

“As we approach the 75th anniversary of the dawn of the nuclear age, it is painfully clear that the Trump administration is recklessly increasing nuclear threats to this nation and the world. I applaud Senator Markey’s long-time dedication to nuclear arms control and non-proliferation and his introduction of the Freeze Act which sets forward a better vision for U.S. global leadership in reducing global nuclear risks,” said John Tierney, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World. 

“As we approach the anniversary of the 1982 Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign as well as the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings in Japan, we’re reminded both of how far we have come in limiting nuclear stockpiles and the dangers these weapons pose. Senator Markey’s leadership on the HALT ACT provides hope that the hard-won progress toward limiting and eventually eliminating these singularly terrible weapons may not be lost, and sends a strong signal to President Trump that conducting a nuclear weapons test would undermine the safety and security of Americans and the world,” said Daniel Jasper, Asia Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee.

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