Law of the Sea Treaty is dead
The U.N. Law of the Sea Convention has yet to get a committee vote, but Senate Republicans have gathered enough opposition to ensure it will be dead on arrival.
The office of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) announced Monday that 34 senators now oppose the treaty, ensuring that getting a two-thirds majority vote–67 ayes in the full Senate–will be impossible.
While a few moderate Republicans and members of the U.S. military have joined Senate Democrats and the Obama Administration in supporting the treaty, several conservative organizations have spearheaded an effective information campaign in opposition. Opponents argue the treaty could subject the U.S. to international environmental regulations, effectively tax seabed production through collection of trillions of dollars in royalties, and make the nation vulnerable to international litigation.
A strong push to kill Law of the Sea came from political action committee Heritage Action, which informed voters about the issue through emails and alerts.
“For months, constituents have called and emailed their Senators, requested meetings, submitted letters to the editor, and organized in an effort to sink this dangerous treaty,” the organization’s CEO, Michael Needham, said in a statement. “We commend the 34 Senators who stood with their constituents on the side of freedom.”
Three of the senators voting no, Marco Rubio (Fla.) Rob Portman (Ohio) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), have been named in the media as speculative picks for the Republican vice presidential nomination; two of them, Portman and Ayotte, are among the most recent to oppose the treaty according to DeMint’s announcement.
Monday afternoon, Portman and Ayotte sent a letter to Senate majority leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.) explaining their reasoning for opposing the treaty.
“The real issue is not whether the United States will defend its maritime rights, but rather who will have the final say on the scope of those rights. We simply are not persuaded that decisions by the International Seabed Authority and international tribunals empowered by this treaty will be more favorable to U.S. interests than bilateral negotiations, voluntary arbitration, and other traditional means of resolving maritime issues,” they wrote.
“On balance, we believe the treaty’s litigation exposure and impositions on U.S. sovereignty outweigh its potential benefits. For that reason, we cannot support the Law of the Sea treaty and would oppose its ratification.”
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been silent about the treaty since he voiced concerns about the way it ceded power to international institutions during his 2008 presidential run. But Frank Gaffney, head of the anti-LOST True Sovereignty Coalition, speculated that recent opposition by prominent GOP senators may be an indicator of where Romney stands.
“It’s probably been signaled at least informally by the Romney campaign that he doesn’t want this thing to come through,” Gaffney said.
Ultimately, Gaffney said, effective information sharing about the realities of the treaty–particularly by staunch opponents such as DeMint and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) led to its demise.
“The best shot the proponents had of getting it through was to ensure that nobody knew what they were doing,” Gaffney said.
The treaty has been brought up for ratification in the Senate periodically since the 1980s, most recently in 2007. It may be awhile before proponents introduce it again; although there is enough opposition now to kill it, DeMint’s office said he was not done collecting Senate “no” votes on the measure.