Ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit, the HALT Act calls for renewed U.S. leadership to negotiate a multilateral freeze on the testing, production, and further deployment of nuclear weapons
Washington (June 10, 2021) –Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (MA-02) today announced the reintroduction of the bicameral Hastening Arms Limitation Talks (HALT) Act, legislation outlining a vision for a 21st century nuclear freeze movement. The HALT Act comes 39 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. Then-Representative Markey addressed the demonstration on June 12, 1982, urging President Ronald Reagan to abandon costly and unneeded new nuclear weapon systems and to enter into arms control negotiations with the then-Soviet Union. 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. The HALT Act reintroduction comes as President Biden is set to meet with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, at a summit in Geneva, Switzerland where the two leaders are set to discuss bilateral arms control. 
Joining Senator Markey and Chairman McGovern as co-sponsors of the HALT Act are Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives Donald Beyer (VA-08), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), and John Garamendi (CA-03). Senators Markey and Merkley and Representatives Beyer and Garamendi are co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group.
“Four decades ago, I joined the one million Americans gathered at New York’s Central Park to demand a freeze to the Cold War arms race. This rally led to the negotiations of arms control treaties and agreements that eliminated and limited entire classes of nuclear weapons,” said Senator Markey. “It’s time for a reboot with a 21st Century nuclear freeze movement adapted for our multipolar world that halts quantitative and qualitative upgrades in the stockpiles of the world’s nuclear weapons powers. The age of arms control incrementalism must end if we hope to spare taxpayers the $634 billion bill over the next decade on unneeded nuclear weapons programs. I’m proud to reintroduce the HALT Act with Representative McGovern to lay out an achievable blueprint of action that can restore U.S. nonproliferation leadership and reduce the role and number of these existential weapons around the world.” 
“The world is moving in the wrong direction on nuclear disarmament and arms control, and a U.S.-led, multilateral freeze on nuclear weapons testing, production, and deployment is urgently needed to avert disaster,” said Congressman McGovern. “Every penny spent on nuclear weapons serves no purpose but to strengthen the hand of evil in the world and bring humanity one stop closer to extinction. It is time for a 21st century nuclear freeze movement so we can hit the brakes on this dangerous escalation, honor our existing treaty obligations, expend our time and money on improving our country and world, and abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE
Specifically, the HALT Act makes it U.S. policy to seek any of the following negotiated steps to reduce the number and salience of nuclear weapons:
  • An agreement on a verifiable freeze on the testing, production, and further deployment of all nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles for such weapons;
  • A bilateral U.S. agreement with the Russian Federation on a treaty or agreement that covers non-strategic nuclear weapons or strategic systems not covered by the New START Treaty;
  • Negotiations of a verifiable Fissile Material Treaty or Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty in the United Nations (UN) Conference on Disarmament or another international forum;
  • Series of U.S. disarmament summits to reduce stocks of weapons-usable nuclear material;
  • U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and mobilization of  all countries covered by Annex 2 of the CTBT to pursue similar action necessary for entry-into-force of the treaty;
  • Other engagements with all other countries that possess nuclear weapons to negotiate and conclude future multilateral arms control, disarmament, and risk reduction agreements; and
  • Prohibition of funds to prepare for or to conduct U.S. explosive nuclear-weapon testing in fiscal year 2022 or any future year.
“The HALT act is an important reminder that there is strong congressional and public support for reducing the dangerously large stockpiles of US and Russian nuclear weapons. When Presidents Biden and Putin meet next week in Geneva, they need to focus their energies on the greatest danger we face: nuclear war. It is time to take the next step on nuclear arms control. We thank Sen Markey for his leadership,” said William J. Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense (1994-1997).
“President Biden saved the bipartisan nuclear arms control process when he worked with Russian President Putin to extend the New START treaty earlier this year. That treaty will expire in 5 years, so we must negotiate a new agreement to replace it. That process must begin now, and Senate support will be essential. We thank Sen Markey for his leadership on the HALT Act,” said Tom Collina, Policy Director, Ploughshares Fund.
“The Council for a Livable World commends Senator Markey's leadership to reintroduce the HALT Act. Rather than sleepwalking into a renewed arms race, that the United States should retake its place in leading the world to reduce the threats posed by nuclear weapons through dedicated arms control, effective nonproliferation efforts and principled diplomacy. This has been an issue championed by Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, since the dawn of the nuclear age, and this administration and this Congress should rededicate themselves to that cause,” said former nine-term Congressman and Council for a Livable World Executive Director John Tierney.
“The United States and Russian nuclear arsenals are an existential threat to the entire human race and to our own citizens,” said Cole Harrison, Executive Director, Massachusetts Peace Action. “The HALT Act provides a critical roadmap to reduce the danger of nuclear war and resume serious steps to freeze development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, reduce nuclear weapons, ratify the CTBT and kickstart diplomacy embracing all nuclear weapon states.  We need to stop the new arms race and stop the rush to a new cold war with Russia and China!”
“Nuclear arms races increase the risk of nuclear use, waste precious budgetary resources, and endanger those who work at or live near production facilities,” said Diana Ohlbaum, Legislative Director for Foreign Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.  “The HALT Act would encourage bilateral and multilateral negotiations to reduce nuclear arsenals, ban nuclear explosive testing, and take nuclear weapons off a hair-trigger alert.  FCNL believes this legislation would bring a much-needed dose of sanity to U.S. nuclear policy and make all of us more secure.”
“The HALT Act, introduced by Senator Markey and Representative McGovern, is good for the security of Americans, and is good for the security of everyone in the world. When the US leads, others follow. The HALT Act calls for the production and further deployment of nuclear weapons to be halted, and for the US to engage with the other nuclear-armed countries on additional risk-reduction, arms control and disarmament agreements. This will make for a more secure world, and will free up resources to address public health, climate and economic recovery from the pandemic,” said Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament.
“It is by no means certain that the world’s nuclear-armed states will continue to have enough good luck, responsible leadership, and managerial competence to avoid nuclear conflict. Sustaining progress on disarmament, particularly involving the United States and Russia, is not a choice but a necessity for human survival. This legislation provides practical options for President Biden's efforts to reduce nuclear risks and downsize bloated nuclear arsenals,” said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, the Arms Control Association.
“We are grateful for Senator Markey and Representative McGovern’s continued leadership on the HALT Act, which puts forward sensible policies to help further limit and reduce nuclear weapons. Amid a pandemic and a worsening climate emergency, it should be clear that putting resources toward weapons of mass destruction will only hasten our demise. Now is the time to reinvest in solutions that will benefit both people and the environment,” said Daniel Jasper, Asia Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee.
In May, Senator Markey and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) reintroduced the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act, which would cancel or reduce nuclear weapons programs over the next decade and generate at least $73 billion in cost savings. The SANE Act would restore budget sanity and advance U.S. national security by cutting redundant and destabilizing nuclear programs, and factoring in affordability analysis into programs, a course of action recommended by the Government Accountability Office.