(photo is of White House Treaty Room, White House Museum Archives)
During a Maria Leavey Memorial Breakfast Series discussion with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), I asked the Senator in May 2008 whether there would be any action before the end of that Congress on the “Law of the Sea Treaty“. This treaty was one that most Democrats supported, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar supported it, the military wanted it, George W. Bush wanted it — even though his legislative staff undermined him on it, and Senator John McCain had strongly supported it before he strongly didn’t.
The entire exchange with Senator Reid was interesting — and it was clear that had Reid had more time on the Congressional clock, he would have tried to push through consideration of the treaty, but at the same time, there seems to be an allergy to treaties.
The Senate needs to get back into the Treaty business — whether it is START, the Law of the Seas Treaty, or others like the Land Mine Treaty — and the White House should jump at chances to push the Senate back to ratifying global protocols that show America is back supporting and promoting a global liberal order that simultaneously enhances US interests but also global stability.
Reid’s answer to my query was:
First of all folks understand that the Republicans in the Senate do not represent mainstream Republicanism in the country.
Mainstream Republicanism in the country is moderate. The Republicans in the Senate are not moderates, with the one exception of Olympia Snowe are not moderates, they’re right wing. And that includes some people who in the past have been moderates, someone you’d think like Arlen Specter. I talk about Arlen Specter in my book briefly and say that he’s with us when we don’t need him. (Laughter) Which is true, he never votes with us on an important vote. The only one who does is Olympia Snowe. So having said that, understand the Senate doesn’t represent what’s going on in the country either with Democrats or Republicans.
As a result of that we’re not getting much done in foreign policy. You will once in a while get a Republican like Brownback, who as a sensitive man in some respects will work hard on an issue like AIDS, um, but his position on choice is so far to the right it interferes with his doing a lot of other things.
Now, there are many things that need to be done, the Law of the Seas is one. I do not have two weeks to spend on the Senate floor. I should do it, if for no other reason than to embarrass John McCain with his flip-flopping.
I’ve spoken over the weekend to Stephen Hadley about a couple of foreign policy issues that are extremely important. One is a treaty called the 1-2-3 Treaty, how it got that name I have no idea, but it is to work with the Soviet Union (sic) for further cooperation for taking down our military…our atomic weapons, and that’s something we need to do. I hope they send it down soon, statutorily, if they do, we have 90 days to take actions. I will do my very best to make sure we take action on it.
This week, both the New York Times and the Washington Post ran articles in which the US Senate was calling on the White House to join the Land Mine Treaty, which has been globally in force without US support for more than a decade.
Senator Patrick Leahy, who has been leading the charge, says that there are enough votes in the Senate today to ratify the Treaty – and this could very well lay groundwork for other across-the-aisle cooperation on key treaty votes in this Congress and the next.
Beyond the good sense and global good will that would be achieved if the US did become a Land Mind treaty signatory, this lays the groundwork for the Obama team’s efforts to get the recent US-Russia START agreement ratified. Since there is so much bipartisan support for it, the Law of the Sea Treaty should also be in line.
The White House would be wise to jump on the Senate’s offer of ratifying one treaty to get it in the grooves to move others.
— Steve Clemons