Despite strong Senate support for adding the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to NATO, a vote on the three accession protocols will not be held until at least the end of April when the Senate returns from its April recess.
On March 20, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) postponed Senate action on the Clinton administration's foremost foreign policy objective, pinning the delay on Democratic filibustering on Republican-sponsored domestic legislation. Although reportedly not a significant factor in Lott's decision, 17 senators had signed a letter on March 5 requesting that the vote be delayed until June 1.
Senate approval of NATO's enlargement appears inevitable, as demonstrated by the Foreign Relations Committee vote of 16-2 in favor on March 3, but the administration is campaigning hard against any amendments that could affect future expansion. Speaking shortly before Lott's unexpected postponement, President Bill Clinton urged the Senate "to reject any efforts to impose an artificial pause on the process of enlargement."
More than 20 amendments have been proposed, including one to condition the membership of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland on their prior admission into the European Union. Another seeks to prohibit any commitments to further expansion for three years after the first three join the alliance.
Of the current 16 NATO members, Canada, Denmark, Germany and Norway have ratified the accession protocols.