Sen. Johanns pushes Law of the Sea Treaty ratification to the brink

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Since treaty ratification requires a two-thirds Senate majority, Johanns's addition to the list means treaty opponents are now only three votes short of blocking the entire measure. 

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), along with Maine Republicans Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, are in favor of ratification, according to Heritage Action, the Heritage Foundation’s advocacy arm, which is lobbying against Senate approval of the deal. 

But officials from Alexander's office said the Tennessee Republican is still undecided on the treaty itself and weighing his options regarding ratification. 

Alexander "is still taking a look at it and his vote is not certain one way or the other," according to Chief of Staff Ryan Loskarn.

That said, anti-treaty advocates have targeted eight Senate Republicans to close that three-vote gap. 

Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss), Bob Corker (R-Tenn), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are on the list, according to Heritage Action. 

But McCain has already joined others in the Senate in support of the treaty, claiming it could be a much-needed check on an increasingly aggressive Chinese military in areas like the South China Sea. 

Administration officials have long tied treaty ratification to maintaining stability in places like the South China Sea and other maritime hot spots in the Pacific and around the world. 

Treaty opponents in the Senate argue the pact does nothing to guarantee regional security along the waterways in the Pacific or elsewhere. 

The White House would also effectively tie the hands of the U.S. Navy to conduct operations in the region, because those missions would have to be reviewed and approved by treaty members, opponents claim. 

Aside from national security priorities, treaty ratification would also hand over power to the International Seabed Authority to distribute a portion of oil and gas royalties from offshore operations. 

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld testified in June that relinquishing that kind of authority to an international body "based on rhetoric about common heritage of mankind" was simply unacceptable. 

Despite the political jockeying by proponents and opponents of the treaty, a ratification vote will not take place until after the November presidential elections, according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.).

--the story has been updated at 3:32pm to include comments from Ryan Loskarn, chief of staff for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)