At the United Nations, review continues of the latest draft of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that was unveiled on Friday.
The temperature of the conference is notably lower now, and there is a renewed sense that Thursday is likely to bring agreement on a treaty. True, the Arabs and others continue to issue demands, and the U.S. is still locked in a struggle with a group of over 100 nations that want a perfect treaty, but this week’s speeches seem less strident than those made at the end of last week. There is a distinct sense that, with the treaty in all but final form, statements are now being made as much for the record as to influence the drafting of the treaty.
The most important developments over the past few days have happened in Washington, not New York. On Monday, the concurrent resolution introduced two weeks ago by Senator Jerry Moran (R–KS) and Representative Mike Kelly (R–PA) won its 34th Senate cosponsor, Senator Max Baucus (D–MT). This means that more than a third of the Senate is now committed to urging President Obama not to sign the ATT, opposing its ratification by the Senate, and rejecting any funding for or legal recognition of the ATT unless and until it passes fully through the ratification process.
The resolution also continues to gain support in the House, where it now has 129 co-sponsors. Together, this places the Senate and the House jointly on record as supporting a resolution that is strongly critical of the ATT and as defending their respective roles in the U.S. treaty process—in numbers sufficient in the Senate to prevent the ATT’s ratification.
On Friday, the leadership of Moran and Kelly was supplemented by an initiative from Senator Jim Inhofe (R–OK), when his amendment to the budget resolution was approved by a vote of 53 to 46. It gives the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee—currently Senator Patty Murray (D–WA)—the power to revise, in a deficit- and revenue-neutral way, budget allocations relating to upholding Second Amendment rights, which “shall include preventing the United States from entering into the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.”
With Moran’s concurrent resolution and Inhofe’s amendment, opposition to the ATT is now at an all-time high in the Senate, surpassing the previous peak of 51 Senators who signed a letter led by Moran on the ATT to President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in July 2012.
The efforts of the Moran resolution and the Inhofe amendment are complementary. The Inhofe amendment shows the strength of opposition to the ATT in the Senate, which some treaty supporters have recently argued was on the wane. But it only allows the Senate Budget Committee chair to take action against the ATT; it does not require such action. It cannot eliminate the broader risks to U.S. foreign policy and business deriving from the ATT; it cannot prevent the President from signing the ATT; and it takes no position on the legal status of an ATT that the President has signed but the Senate has not ratified. Those are precisely the areas where the Moran concurrent resolution—which, by its very nature, allows more room for the presentation of a position—is at its strongest.
Together, Moran and Inhofe, with the vital support of Kelly in the House, have shown real leadership on the ATT. With the conference now looking more likely to conclude with the adoption of a treaty, their collaborative support for each other’s efforts will be tested again in the months and years to come.