Foreign Relations Committee Overwhelmingly Approves Law of the Sea; Coleman Flips and Flops


I just got back from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee business meeting on the Law of the Sea. The final vote was 17-4 in favor of consideration by the full Senate.
The New York Times editorialized on the subject this morning:

Today, the treaty will face yet another critical moment in its long and troubled life when the Foreign Relations Committee votes on whether to send it to the floor. The vote is expected to favor the treaty. But the task facing the Democratic chairman, Joseph Biden of Delaware, and the ranking Republican member, Richard Lugar of Indiana, is to produce not just a favorable vote but an overwhelming vote sufficient to persuade the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, to finally move on ratification.

Ask, and ye shall receive. Senators Jim DeMint and David Vitter are the treaty’s hard-core opponents; they were certain “no” votes. According to Michelle Malkin, they targeted four more: Senators Voinovich, Sununu, Murkowski, and Isakson. They’ve also lobbied Senators Bob Corker and Norm Coleman very hard. That means they were shooting for a 13-8 vote. While not all of those votes were ever in play, this is a major defeat for the black-helicopter opposition. With a vote this strong, Senator Reid now must devote floor time to the Law of the Sea.
The Washington Post and the Orlando Sentinel got in a word, too. Both are worth a read, as is Senator Biden’s statement supporting the convention, now up at Taylor Marsh’s site.
Of the “no” votes, the biggest surprise was Coleman, who voted in favor of the treaty in 2004. What’s more, during today’s business meeting, Coleman acknowledged that there “have not been any significant changes since 2004 [to the treaty].”
But substance means little to Coleman, who was John Bolton’s strongest supporter in confirmation hearings during the last Congress. What has changed since 2004 are the politics. In an election year, the judgments of Bolton and Frank Gaffney apparently hold more sway than those of the Navy, Coast Guard, President, Joint Chiefs, and State Department — not to mention his own politically independent judgment three years ago.
Interestingly, Coleman raised points specifically debunked yesterday by treaty opponent numero uno, Senator Jim Inhofe. And the one opponent Coleman quoted during his brief remarks is Jeremy Rabkin, the George Mason University professor who said earlier this year:

“The Senate won’t ratify the Convention if it is controversial, and I’m doing everything I can to make a controversy.”

Those running against Coleman for Senate could have a field day with this. For now, it’s time supporters of responsible global engagement to celebrate a little.
Below the fold is the full roll call vote.
— Scott Paul
Update: Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer is the first of Coleman’s challengers out of the gate to point out this massive and as-yet-unexplained flip flop. He may not be the last.
Nelson-Pallmeyer’s release:

Nelson-Pallmeyer Condemns Coleman’s Caving to the Far
Right in Flip-Flop Vote Against Law of the Sea Treaty
Today Sen. Norm Coleman voted in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to kill the Law of the Sea Convention, a UN agreement supported by environmentalists, business associations, oil, shipping, and fishing companies, and the military. He was one of only four Senators on the committee to oppose the measure. It passed the committee by a vote of 17-4.
Coleman voted for the legislation in 2004 and admitted that the legislation he voted against today is essentially the same. His flip-flop was apparently in response to a chorus of far-right voices, including John Bolton and Frank Gaffney.
The Navy and Air Force support the Law of the Sea Convention as a strong legal foundation for their navigation and over-flight rights, as well as for their Proliferation Security Initiative program to intercept illicit shipments of weapons material. The Coast Guard supports it as a critical tool to enhance port security. Environmental organizations support it as a means to strengthen global efforts to protect the marine ecosystem. The oil and gas industry supports it for defining a reserves area larger than the continental United States. Membership in the treaty would give US firms legal certainty to compete with foreign firms for marine resources.
“Norm Coleman is so deeply in the pocket of the far right that he is willing to flip-flop and break faith with our men and women in the Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard and vote against the treaty,” said Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer. “By Coleman’s own admission, nothing has changed since 2004 — when he voted in favor of the treaty — except politics. Senator Coleman seems more concerned with placating the far right than protecting our environment, restoring our international leadership role, keeping us safe, or helping our economy.”

Biden (D-DE)
Dodd (D-CT) by proxy
Kerry (D-MA) by proxy
Boxer (D-CA) by proxy
Feingold (D-WI) by proxy
Nelson (D-FL)
Obama (D-IL) by proxy
Menendez (D-NJ)
Cardin (D-MD)
Casey (D-PA)
Webb (D-VA)
Lugar (R-IN)
Hagel (R-NE)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH) by proxy
Corker (R-TN) by proxy
Coleman (R-MN)
DeMint (R-SC) by proxy
Isakson (R-GA)
Vitter (R-LA)


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