Foreign Affairs

Republicans ready for ‘sneaky treaties’

Republicans ready for 'sneaky treaties'

Back in September, 36 Republicans in the Senate signed on to a letter requesting that no treaties be brought up for consideration during the precious few days of the lame duck session.

“The writers of the Constitution clearly believed that all treaties presented to the Senate should undergo the most thorough scrutiny before being agreed upon,” they wrote in a Sept. 20 letter to Senate majority and minority leaders Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“The American people will be electing representatives and senators in November, and new representatives carrying the election mandate should be afforded the opportunity to review and consider any international agreements that are outstanding at the time of their election.”

The signatories promised to oppose efforts to consider any treaty brought for consideration.

Fast-forward two months, and the Senate has begun consideration of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a United Nations treaty that faces heavy opposition from conservative groups and received only one committee hearing, back in July.

Opponents say the treaty infringes on U.S. sovereignty, confers no new rights on Americans with disabilities, and even tampers with established concepts of parental authority.

And this comes to the floor while the National Defense Authorization Act, a bipartisan budget bill necessary for military planning and operations, waits in the wings.

Despite the fact that more than one-third of the Senate promised to oppose consideration of a treaty—enough to kill the measure if they opted to vote against it—the lame duck session may still represent the last best hope for this treaty and others like it.

GOP more conservative

“The Republican caucus is becoming more conservative, even if it is by just one or two people,” said Heritage Foundation fellow Steven Groves, an expert on treaties. Groves cited the election of Sen.-elect Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who replaces the socially liberal Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who is at least as conservative as his predecessor, Jon Kyl.

While Democrats added to their majority in the Senate, they still lack the supermajority needed to ratify treaties. To get the 67 votes they need, they have to win over Republicans. And so far, the lame duck gambit seems to be working well.

A motion to proceed on the disabilities treaty was carried, with votes of support even from letter-signers Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). It’s not clear if the two-thirds majority needed to ratify the treaty is there, but if Democrats are successful, they may be emboldened to take on more controversial items.

“I think Sen. Reid is going to keep trying to bring up things that we don’t have to do to keep us from focusing on the things we have to do,” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Human Events.

“If they pass it, they could go straight to the Law of the Sea Treaty.”

A full-court press by the Obama administration to pass the Law of the Sea was shut down this summer after Republicans procured 34 promised “no” votes, saying the treaty would compromise U.S. sovereignty and navigational rights and obligate us to pay billions of dollars in royalties for mining of deep-sea minerals.

Groves agreed that Law of the Sea might resurface in the lame duck session.

“If they’ve got a victory on one treaty, why not push for another and keep things rolling?” he said.

But one thing that may stymie these plans and get the Senate back on task, he said, is a lively floor fight from Republicans.

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