Week ahead: Senate renews sea treaty push

The treaty is supported by the U.S. Navy and the oil-and-gas industries, who say it’s in the U.S. interest to be able to craft international maritime law and to help govern disputes at sea.

Opponents of the treaty warn that it could force the United States to abide by international restrictions on carbon emissions and make U.S. companies pay royalties to a United Nations body, arguing it is inconsistent with U.S. sovereignty.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has led the fight in the Senate against the treaty, and he has gathered 27 senators to sign a letter signaling their opposition. The treaty would need a two-thirds majority to pass, meaning 34 senators could block it.

This year’s first Law of the Sea hearing featured two Cabinet secretaries and the top U.S. military general, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey made a rare joint appearance on Capitol Hill to argue for its passage.

The Foreign Relations panel then held a doubleheader earlier this month, with more military officials — Kerry repeatedly touted their “24 stars” of support — in the morning, with former Bush administration Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld headlining the witness panel in the afternoon. Rumsfeld testified against the treaty.

There’s been a lobbying effort on both sides surrounding the potential vote, and several former top military officials have signed onto an effort against it. With Kerry signaling that a vote won’t occur until after the November election, there’s plenty of time for both sides to continue to try and whip up support. 

Kerry has touted support of business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, a more frequent Republican ally, in his push to get the Senate to ratify the treaty.

Coming off the heels of a Senate vote to require the administration to explain the impact of sequestration cuts, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) is giving two talks on Tuesday about sequestration.

In the morning, Ayotte will be speaking at TechAmerica about how the automatic cuts could harm the defense base, and in the afternoon she’ll be at the Brookings Institution to talk about implications and potential alternatives to sequestration.

The Defense hearing schedule has noticeably slowed now that the budget hearings have passed, and that’s fully evident with a light schedule this week despite both the House and Senate being in session.

The House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing on the National Nuclear Security Administration Wednesday, where a former administrator and Government Accountability Office official will testify, and the panel will have a Friday morning hearing to assess the Afghan National Security Forces and their transition to the lead on security.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on health and benefits legislation.