Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hearings: Law of the Sea Convention

It is being reported (here, here, and here) that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the Law of the Sea Convention (Treaty Doc. 103-39) in September, possibly September 27. (The SFRC has not posted any information on its website regarding any hearings - regardless of the subject matter - that might take place after Congress returns from its August recess.) If true, this will be the fifth set of hearings for the Convention. The SFRC previously held hearings on August 11, 1994, and October 14 and 21, 2003; the Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on March 23, 2004; and the Armed Services Committee held a hearing on April 8, 2004. On March 11, 2004, the SFRC reported the Convention favorably to the Senate floor, with accompanying declarations and understandings (Exec. Rept. 108-10). But that was two Congresses ago, and pursuant to the Senate's Rules (Rule XXX, paragraph 2), since the full Senate did not take any action on the SFRC's report during the 108th Congress, the Convention was referred back to the SFRC, as "all proceedings on treaties shall terminate with the Congress, and they shall be resumed at the commencement of the next Congress as if no proceedings had previously been had thereon." As previously reported here, here, and here (see also here), there has been much public debate this summer - in the op-ed pages, as well as in editorials (see, for example, recent endorsements by the USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, and the Seattle Times) - concerning the Convention's merits. On May 15, the President made a point of publicly urging Senate advice and consent to ratification, and in June the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote a letter to SFRC Chair Biden supporting U.S. ratification. All this activity has clearly been prelude to the anticipated main act: Senate action this fall, beginning with hearings next month.