U.S. Chamber: Law of the Sea Treaty Will Pass

The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce– the nation’s premier group representing business interests — said Thursday that he believes the U.S. Senate will pass the Law of the Sea Treaty during its next session.

Despite Tom Donahue’s prediction, the international treaty has been languishing in the Senate for three decades. Just last month, a total of 34 Republican senators went on record as opposing the treaty — and since a two-thirds vote of the Senate is needed to pass it, the treaty seemed as dead as ever.

Donahue told a breakfast of the American Security Project, a bipartisan think tank, that he believes some of those Republicans will change their minds, although it’s hard for them to align themselves with the nation’s top Democrat during a presidential election year.

According to Donahue, passing the treaty is vital to America’s economic and security interests. He says that without it, the United States will not have a seat at the table when it comes to developing offshore oil and gas beyond its 200-mile territorial limit.

Alaska Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski both welcomed the news, although a spokesperson for Begich seemed doubtful that Republicans could manage such an about-face.

But Murkowski, a moderate Republican, said she thought such a turnaround could indeed take place. She says that modifcations to the treaty have made it a much better deal for the U.S., and that it would be foolish for the U.S. not to adopt the updated version of the treaty.

“We have been doing serious mapping off the coast of Alaska off our northern waters,” Murkowski said. “And (the treaty provides) the opportunity to claim an area about the size of the state of California, that we could effectively annex as part of an area that would be able to control.”

More conservative Republicans disagree including Joe Miller, Murkowski’s former rival for her Senate seat.

“To transfer two-thirds of the earth’s surface over to the governance of the United Nations is just a crazy thought,” Miller said Thursday. “And whether or not there’s some short-term economic benefit, (it) is a terrible thing to do, if you love this country and are really supporting its continued sovereignty.”

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