Senate Republicans have spent most of the summer so far being mad about a United Nations treaty that was first released for ratification in 1982. Which, amazingly, you probably don’t find all that surprising.
The hilariously retro-sounding “Law of the Sea” treaty (LOST) went into effect in 1994, without the U.S. on board. Its intent is to establish more stringent standards around nations’ oceanic jurisdiction: how far out into the sea counts as a nation’s territory, for example, or the limits to a country’s exclusive economic zone.
The most controversial aspect from the United States’ perspective is a proposal that would subject the mining of the seabed outside of a country’s exclusive control to distribution of royalties. That’s part of why the right takes issue with it — the gotfersaken Yoo-nited Nations tryin’ to tell us what to do with our min’ral rights! The other part is that the treaty was originally kiboshed by none other than Saint Ronald Reagan. It’s that reason as much as any that has the Republican old guard — Edwin Meese and George Will and Donald Rumsfeld — railing against it.
Why has this come up now? Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is trying to finally get it ratified by the Senate and bring the United States into agreement with most of the rest of the world. (The U.S. is one of 18 countries that is not a signatory to the treaty — and by far the largest.)
“[R]ock-ribbed Republican businesses and the military and every living Republican Secretary of State say that this needs to happen, and that’s why it’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ for the Law of the Sea,” said Kerry spokeswoman Jodi Seth.
That quote is from an article titled “GOP Scuttles Law-of-Sea Treaty,” if that gives you any indication how the Senate vote went. Or, rather, the non-vote. LOST needs 67 votes for ratification. As of Monday, 34 Republican senators had voiced public opposition, so the Senate leadership won’t be bringing the treaty to the floor.
The article notes exactly how shortsighted this action is:
In the Arctic, where warming temperatures are opening up greater areas for offshore oil and gas exploration, sorting out who owns what energy resources threatens to be a contentious point in future years. All Arctic nations except the U.S. are signatories of the Law of the Sea treaty, which gives ratifying states clear title to the resources on its continental shelf.
“Not since we acquired the lands of the American West and Alaska have we had such a great opportunity to expand U.S. sovereignty,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at a news conference earlier this year urging support for ratification.
Silly Republicans. Spent so much time melting that ice, and now they want to give that wonderful oil to Canada and Russia.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, as is its way, the House has taken the dumbness to 11. About those stretches of ocean off our shores?
Rep. Darrell Issa [R-Calif.] is re-introducing a piece of legislation that would name all of this water after Ronald Reagan. H.R. 6147 would “designate the exclusive economic zone of the United States as the ‘Ronald Wilson Reagan Exclusive Economic Zone.'”
It seems … unlikely that President Obama would sign such a bill into law. But at least Issa is addressing the real problem — not that the U.S. should be an actor in good faith with the rest of the world, but that our maps don’t say “Reagan” enough.