Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) is crafting a strategy to ratify the long-stalled Law of the Sea Treaty this year -- a move that ocean and foreign policy experts say is increasingly important as climate change reshapes the Arctic.UNCLOS has been in Senatorial limbo for about 15 years, so it's encouraging to hear that Sen. Kerry is leading a charge to finally ratify it. On the other hand, it seemed like the treaty had a good shot back in 2007, and in 2004 -- my understanding is that it had the votes for ratification even back then. And yet, nothing has happened. I could understand why the Republicans sat on the issue when they had the majority, given their captivity to the far right and its hatred of multilateralism. But why, with the Democrats in charge, there's been no movement whatever on the treaty, is a mystery.
Kerry said this week that he is working to find time for a hearing and votes on the treaty, which governs navigation, fishing, economic development and environmental standards on the open seas.
On the other hand, it may not be such a mystery, given how the Senate works. Norm Ornstein recently wrote about how the abuse of the Senate's rules has made even overwhelmingly popular legislation nearly impossible to pass. I don't know if this has been the case, but I suspect that fear of someone like James Inhofe bringing Senate business to a halt has been a major factor in the lack of action on UNCLOS. The Greenwire article mentions that finding time on the Senate calendar is a big question for moving ratification forward; but it seems to me that the Senate leadership could find the time if they wanted to have a vote. In other words, I fear that ratification opponents care a lot more about stopping it than supporters do about passing it. Again, this is speculation on my part -- one other factor could be that the Republican Senators who have said they support ratification might cave under right-wing pressure. Fortunately, this time around ratification requires only eight GOP votes, at least.