- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Bush administration today begins a fresh push for Senate ratification of the U.N. Law of the Sea accord, but treaty opponents say there is still time to derail an agreement they warn is a major attack on U.S. sovereignty.

A coalition of conservative groups yesterday debuted a pair of 30-second cable television ads attacking the treaty, on the eve of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in which a trio of top administration officials — including Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England — will call for Senate ratification.

The Law of the Sea treaty — LOST to opponents — “erodes American sovereignty more thoroughly than any other treaty ever conceived,” said Peter Leitner, senior fellow at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies and author of a book critical of the treaty.

The far-reaching U.N. accord, covering legal, economic, environmental and security rules for the world’s oceans, has been adopted by 155 countries, but has languished in the Senate since President Clinton submitted it 13 years ago.

Supporters, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden, Delaware Democrat, and the panel’s ranking Republican, Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, say this could be the best chance to win the two-thirds majority needed to ratify the treaty.

The Senate panel plans just one more hearing, with private experts for and against the treaty testifying. No other Senate committees have scheduled hearings and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has said he hopes to have a ratification vote by the end of the year.

The ratification fight is shaping up as another classic battle between the foreign policy establishment — Republican and Democrat — and mostly conservative opponents deeply skeptical of both the treaty and of the United Nations as a whole.

A letter this week to Mr. Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, urging ratification was signed by a virtual “Who’s Who” of Washington power players, from five former secretaries of state and the heads of the American Petroleum Institute and the National Resources Defense Council to former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite.

But the coalition opposing the treaty includes key conservative voices, including Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, Paul Weyrich and American Conservative Union head David Keene.

One of the new anti-treaty ads compares the push for the Law of the Sea treaty to the lobbying campaign to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, which foundered in Congress despite President Bush’s strong support.

The treaty is “worse than amnesty,” one of the commercials warns.

Treaty opponent Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy said the Democratic takeover of Congress last year could make it harder to block an expedited floor vote in the Senate, but added the immigration fight should serve as a warning to treaty backers.

“We just witnessed the American people rising up in indignation against precisely this kind of thing,” he said, “against something that all the elite people were telling us simply had to be done.”

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