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Law of the Sea treaty ratification dead in US Senate

Alaska Dispatch

It now appears that any chance this Congress would ratify the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea before adjournment has evaporated.

Three Republican senators on Monday newly declared their opposition to the pact also known as The Law of the Sea Treaty. Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Johnny Isakson (Georgia) joined other conservatives who oppose ratifying the treaty, Politico reports. The treaty, known colloquially by its acronym, LOST, lays out a legal framework to claim offshore Arctic resources, among many other things. 

With 34 senators in opposition, latest efforts by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., to finally secure U.S. ratification of the treaty appear dead in the water, at least for now. That's because treaty ratification requires support of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate. 

In expressing their opposition, Sens. Ayotte and Portman reiterated concerns over how LOST might curtail "U.S. sovereignty." 

“No international organization owns the seas," they wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "We are confident that our nation will continue to protect its navigational freedom, valid territorial claims and other maritime rights."

The treaty, which has been around since the 1980s and has been ratified by every permanent member of the U.N. Security Council except the U.S., deals with international waterways, marine boundaries, access to sub-sea resources and also binds signatories to its enforcement. It's supported by a Who's Who of conservatives, including every living Republican Secretary of State. The Coast Guard supports its ratification, as do dozens of active and retired four-star generals. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports LOST.

LOST is seen as an important tool in protecting and furthering U.S. maritime interests, including those newly arising as commercial activity in the Arctic continues on a trend of rapid increase.

Kerry says he hasn't given up on gaining ratification of Law of the Sea. Just don't expect another push in the run-up to November's elections. 

A Kerry spokesperson wrote, "It’s not news to anyone that right now we’re in the middle of a white-hot political campaign season, where ideology is running in overdrive.”

Read more from Politico, here, and read about Sen. Isakson's opposition announcement at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, here.