237. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher) to Secretary of State Vance1


  • Panama Legislation

At breakfast today, Senators Stennis and Levin and I explored the differences between the Senate and House bills and possible areas of compromise.2 Stennis is approaching the matter with deliberation, [Page 576] reflecting not only his long experience but his sense that there is relatively little room for maneuver. Senator Levin is pushing to try to resolve the matter this week on the theory that Murphy wants a bill this week and will be willing to give up more now than in September. I told Carl that I thought we should not lose sight of the importance of full participation by Senator Stennis and that delay would be justified if necessary to insure his active involvement, both in the conference and in pushing through the Senate the bill ultimately developed in conference.

Senator Stennis is meeting with Murphy at 2:00 p.m. today—just the two of them. Murphy wanted to start the conference today but Stennis told him that he was not prepared to name the Senate conferees until he had a better idea of Murphy’s intentions.

Warren Christopher
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary, Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 21, Memoranda to the Secretary—1979. No classification marking. Copies were sent to Atwood and Popper.
  2. The House passed the Murphy version of the Panama Canal Treaty Implementing Legislation on June 21 by a vote of 224–202. For the text of Carter’s statement on the passage, see Public Papers: Carter, 1979, Book I, p. 1125. Carter expressed appreciation for those who voted for the legislation and stated the administration would be seeking improvements in the bill to ensure the legislation was fully consistent with the treaty. In its statement on the House of Representatives approval of the legislation, sent in telegram 4680 from Panama City, June 22, the Panamanian Government called the bill a “positive step,” expressed its belief that parts of the bill did not adhere to the treaty and were therefore unacceptable, and congratulated Carter on his decision to abide by the treaty. (Department of State, American Embassy Panama, Unclassified Political Subject Files, 1979, Lot 82F94, Box 26, POL 33.3–2, Implementing Legislation, 1979). On July 26, the Senate amended and passed the treaty implementation bill favored by the administration by a vote of 64–30.