HUMAN EVENTS Asks Congress:Should the Senate Ratify Law of the Sea Treaty?

When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 18, Chairman Richard Lugar (R.-Ind.) cited written answers she gave the committee urging ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).

“I cannot think of a stronger administration statement in support of the Law of the Sea Convention,” said Lugar. “Should I assume that the President would like to see this convention passed as soon as possible?”

Rice responded that Bush “would certainly like to see it pass as soon as possible.”

In 1982, President Reagan refused to sign LOST and worked to block it from taking effect. Last week, Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, outlined some of the reasons it should still be rejected. These include: 1) it creates an International Seabed Authority that would charge the U.S. Treasury fees for U.S. companies mining the sea floor, creating a form of international taxation; 2) it would create a Law of the Sea Tribunal that would set the limits of its own jurisdiction; and 3) it would raise obstacles to U.S. intelligence gathering at sea.

Last year, Lugar’s committee unanimously approved LOST. But it was not brought to the floor. Since then, conservative opposition has mounted. HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor Robert B. Bluey asked Republicans where they stood on ratification of the treaty.

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Both the White House and Sen. Lugar have said they would like to see ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty this year. Would you vote in favor or against ratification?

MAJORITY LEADER BILL FRIST (R.-TENN.): Both personally and representing leadership, I am not going to say how I would vote yet. It has been addressed in committee. I will say that there are a lot of people who believe that there is inadequate understanding of what Law of the Sea Treaty actually is, what it does, in spite of its 30- or 40-year history before the United States Senate. What I expect to happen, speaking for our caucus, is for people to seriously look at what is in the bill, to really have a conference and bring people up to speed. And at that point I would be much more comfortable to say how people may or may not vote. Again, it’s premature, but in all likelihood, whether it’s on the floor or not, it will be addressed. It did go through committee last year. I think not enough senators paid adequate attention to it.

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On the question of the Law of the Sea Treaty, both the White House and Sen. Lugar are pushing for its ratification. Would you vote in favor or against it?

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R.-VA.): I’d have to look at it really closely again.

You know President Reagan opposed it in the early 1980s?

ALLEN: That’s a good indicator. I’d have to look at the circumstances and whether it’s in the best interest of the United States or not. Now the Bush Administration is in favor of it. We really didn’t have much of a hearing on it or a discussion of it. If it comes up, it’s going to get added scrutiny from others and me. So I don’t want to say which way I’m going to vote, other than to say it’s going to get added scrutiny.

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The White House and Sen. Lugar have both said they would like to see the Law of the Sea Treaty ratified this year. Would you be in favor or opposed to ratification?

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R.-OKLA.): No, I will fight to the bitter end to oppose successful ratification.

Do you expect a fight in the Senate for its ratification?

INHOFE: No, I don’t. The only reason everyone seemed to be in favor of the Law of the Sea Treaty was that nobody knew what it was. And it passed last year, 16 to nothing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Several of us started studying what it really does–giving up our opportunities that we would otherwise have–and I just think it’s a bad treaty, and I will oppose it.

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Sen. Lugar and the White House have both said they would like to see ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty this year. Would you vote in favor or against it?

SEN. MIKE DEWINE (R.-OHIO): You know, I haven’t looked at it yet.

Does that mean you’re undecided?

DEWINE: No. That means I just haven’t looked at it.

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The White House and Sen. Lugar have said they want the Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty this year. Would you vote in favor or against it?

SEN. WAYNE ALLARD (R.-COLO.): I have some concerns about it. And the more I find out about it, the more concerned I get to be, let’s put it that way. We’ll see, maybe they can work out some of those concerns about it, but I don’t think they have. But I am very concerned.

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There’s pressure coming from the White House and Sen. Lugar to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty this year. Would you vote in favor or against ratification?

SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R.-FLA.): I haven’t really made a final decision on it. But I do have great concerns at a number of levels. I really want to study a lot more before I make any kind of commitment on it.

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Both the White House and Sen. Lugar have said they want to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty this year. Would you vote for or against its ratification?

SEN. JUDD GREGG (R.-N.H.): I haven’t really focused on it, so I’d have to wait and see.

Are you undecided then?

GREGG: Yes.

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At her confirmation hearing, [Secretary of State-designate] Condoleezza Rice said the White House would like to see ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty this year. It also has the support of Sen. Lugar. If it were to come up, would you vote for it or against it?

SEN. JON KYL (R.-ARIZ.): I don’t think I could vote in favor of it right now. My hope would be that the committee would hold an additional hearing and weigh some of the opposition that has developed to the treaty since they acted last year. Depending upon what could be done–since the treaty can’t technically be amended–I’m not sure what could be done to make it more palatable to senators.

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Would you mind if I asked where you stand in your support or opposition to the Law of the Sea Treaty?

SEN. MIKE ENZI (R.-WYO.): Yes, I would. Why are you asking me about that?

HUMAN EVENTS is polling senators on the issue. [Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice said during her confirmation hearing that the White House would like it ratified this year. Do you know if you would vote in favor of it or against it?

ENZI: It depends on what comes out of committee.

It did pass the Foreign Relations Committee last year.

ENZI: I voted on it last year. I voted for it last year.

And if it stays the same, then would you support it again?

ENZI: Yes. I’m usually consistent on my voting.

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On the Law of the Sea Treaty, both the White House and Sen. Lugar have said they want to bring it up for ratification this year. If it were to come up, would you vote for it or would you vote against ratification?

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R.-ALA.): I don’t plan to vote for it. I don’t think it’s critical. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’ve not seen a lot of big, critical issues that would be solved by it. I mean, you could conjure up things that might happen way out in the future, but they haven’t happened yet. We’re talking, virtually, about an international tax. And I’m not for international taxation. We’ll have to look at it carefully. I would hope the President wouldn’t bring it up or push for it, but he may.

It’s something the Reagan Administration vigorously opposed. Why now do you think there has been a change of heart?

SESSIONS: They [the Bush Administration] contend–I don’t think totally accurately–that the objections that Reagan had have all been resolved in this treaty. I don’t think that’s quite correct. And I’m sure President Reagan didn’t list every objection that he had. They listed some of the ones he thought were most egregious–and probably would suffice to say no to the treaty–but basically, Reagan opposed the treaty. I don’t know why we’ve got to do this. I just don’t see any reason yet.


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