Over the last few years, the U.S. Senate has seen a number of treaties come up for consideration. As a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, I have a constitutional responsibility to consider them carefully and thoughtfully. Recently, the committee conducted a number of hearings on the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), and the Obama administration has sought to conclude a U.N. treaty on reducing firearms. Sadly, both of these treaties, as currently written, would push the U.S. away from our constitutional foundations and supplement its authority with judgments from international courts and U.N. bureaucracies.
Since the beginning of our Republic, the U.S. has used treaties to end wars, govern international affairs and improve our security. In fact, the U.S. has ratified more than 160 treaties. In and of themselves, treaties are worthwhile if they advance the interests of the U.S.
What concerns me most about these new treaties under consideration is how they seek to subject U.S. laws and citizens not to the U.S. Constitution, but to the judgments of international courts, appointed commissions and U.N. bureaucracies. Under our system, the highest law of the land is the U.S. Constitution. Often, when the U.S. Senate ratifies a treaty Congress must rewrite our domestic laws to maintain this precedent. I will not vote for any of these treaties that encroach in any way on U.S. sovereignty.
Unfortunately, the language in many new treaties seeks to make them “self-executing,” therefore bypassing the role of Congress and undermining the primacy of the U.S. Constitution. Hence, a U.N. commission could make a determination and require U.S. law to change to conform to some international commission. I will not vote to hand our sovereignty and constitutional protections over to people who are not accountable to U.S. citizens and, in many instances, advance a liberal international agenda.
For example, in America there is general agreement a person has a right to self-defense and a right to use a gun as part of that self-defense. Conversely, U.N. organizations argue gun control is mandated by international human rights law and there is no right to self-defense. I am unwilling to approve any treaty that would jeopardize a U.S. citizen’s right of self-defense.
In the case of LOST, one provision would force the U.S. to conform to international environmental agreements or be subject to lawsuits in an international court. The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, a binding U.N. agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Why should we allow this to be done through the back door? LOST also requires the “sharing of wealth” from deep sea drilling with countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, and this redistribution of wealth would be decided by a U.N. commission.
Our laws are developed through elected officials who serve with the consent of the American people within a constitutional framework. I do not believe in transferring these principles to international bodies that will ultimately undermine our system and the freedom of all Americans.