In the current economic environment, one would think that Congress could identify nonessential international programs to defund. That’s what Representatives Jeff Duncan (R–SC) and Jim Jordan (R–OH) are attempting to do in Amendment No. 200 to the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

Amendment No. 200 is pretty straightforward:

None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be made available for any institution or organization established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, including the International Seabed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

On its face, Amendment No. 200 should be uncontroversial—the United States is not a party to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), so why would we spend millions of dollars to fund the bureaucracy created by the convention? The U.S. has refused to accede to UNCLOS, so it has no obligation to fund it, right? (The U.S. also is not a party to the Rome Statute and therefore does not fund the International Criminal Court.)

But the UNCLOS bureaucracy must hold a special place in some hearts. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has announced that it is “key voting” Amendment No. 200—be warned, Members of Congress, the Chamber is watching. A vote in favor of Amendment No. 200 will get you on the Chamber’s “naughty” list.

Last time I checked, it was a bad thing to expose U.S. industry and manufacturing to baseless international lawsuits, which is what will surely happen if the U.S. joins UNCLOS. Also, since when did it advance the interests of the U.S. oil industry—major players at the Chamber—to be complicit in siphoning off billions of U.S. dollars in hydrocarbon royalties to an international bureaucracy for redistribution to the so-called developing world?

Are these UNCLOS institutions so crucial to America that they must be funded?

  • The International Seabed Authority, based in Kingston, Jamaica, is essentially a U.N. General Assembly for the oceans with the power to authorize and regulate all activities on the deep seabed. That doesn’t sound essential to U.S. national interests.

Perhaps Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Joint Chiefs Chair Martin Dempsey will have answers to these questions—all three will be testifying strongly in favor of UNCLOS on May 23 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Of course, an Administration that defends the half-billion dollars spent on Solyndra can probably justify anything.