Bush’s base splits over sea treaty

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Mr. Spring said the treaty was originally conceived to focus simply on navigation rights, not on the broader issues the present text includes.

If the drafters had stuck to the narrow agenda, he said, “this would have sailed through the Senate.”

Even supporters of the treaty acknowledge that most of the passion in the debate so far has come from the opposition. Conservative talk-show radio hosts and movement figures such as Phyllis Schlafly have already slammed the administration’s low-key campaign to get a new Senate vote.

“It’s not only dangerous to national security for the administration to promote the Law of the Sea Treaty, it is a stupid political move that will diminish the shrinking percentage of conservatives who still support Bush,” Mrs. Schlafly wrote in a recent column.

A similar administration effort in 2004 produced a unanimous endorsement in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But objections by conservative senators — and the reluctance of the Senate Republican leadership to twist arms — prevented a floor vote.

In an analysis last month for the newsletter of the American Society of International Law, University of California at Berkeley legal scholars David C. Caron and Harry N. Scheiber, co-founders of the Law of the Sea Institute, strongly back the treaty but acknowledge the political hurdles it faces.

“It is likely that no other treaty has ever been so widely supported and yet failed to be put to a vote in the Senate for such a long duration,” they said.

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