GOP Senators Sink Law of the Sea Treaty; 'This Threat to Sovereignty'

Matt Cover | July 16, 2012 | 6:40pm EDT
Font Size

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) (AP Photo)

( – Thirty-four Republican senators have now signed on to a letter circulated by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) declaring that they will not support ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Ratification would have required a two-thirds vote in the Senate to pass, meaning that 67 Senators would have needed to vote for the treaty in order for the U.S. to formally agree to it.

Now that 34 senators have pledged to vote against ratification, there are not enough votes to ratify the treaty.

“President Obama and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry were trying to ram through a misguided treaty that conveys ownership of the oceans (2/3 of the earth surface) to a United Nations agency and subjects the U.S. to international environmental judgments,” said Sen. DeMint in a statement released today. “But conservatives defeated this threat to sovereignty by rallying together enough senators to block the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).”

Earlier today, DeMint announced that four additional Republicans had signed his opposition letter stating that they will vote against ratification.

Those four senators – DeMint had collected 30 signatures as of last week – were Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio.).

The Law of the Sea Treaty – formally known as the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) – has been awaiting Senate ratification since 1982, when it was rejected by former President Ronald Reagan whose administration had participated in drafting the treaty but ultimately rejected the final document.

President Barack Obama and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). (AP Photo)

The treaty was reworked in 1994 to satisfy concerns raised by the Reagan and Bush administrations that it would disadvantage the United States. However, the Senate again failed to get enough votes to ratify the treaty, citing some of the same concerns Reagan had originally cited.

The treaty codifies the legal obligations of all states regarding passage of ships and commerce in their territorial off-shore waters, defining each state’s rights in what is known as the Outer Continental Shelf. It also provides for an international body whose purpose is to settle claims and administer disputes in deep water, offshore areas known as the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

Originally, the United States rejected the treaty because it felt that ratifying it would cede some measure of sovereignty to the ISA. This concern was addressed in the 1994 revision by giving the United States a permanent seat on the ISA’s governing body and giving the U.S. government a veto over all ISA decisions.

Still, many Republican senators oppose the treaty on the grounds that the ISA would have too much power over U.S. commercial interests.

The treaty has the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. military, and all former U.S. secretaries of State.

The full list of Republican senators opposing the treaty can be found here.

mrc merch