The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is like much of the United Nations: it won’t achieve anything, but that doesn’t stop it from holding a lot of meetings. The latest meeting was held in Trinidad last month to prepare, of course, for yet another meeting — the first Conference of States Parties to the treaty, to be held in Mexico City in late August.
By the by, it was also an occasion for Trinidad to lobby to be given the job of hosting the Treaty’s Secretariat, which the Mexico City conference will create. It says a lot about the ATT that Trinidad is so visibly eager to pick the secretariat plum: like many nations that have been talking up the ATT, they’re a little too obviously in it for the money.
But if the ATT’s supporters don’t get tired easily, neither do the Senate and the House. Last week, Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) released a new letter signed by all 12 freshman Republicans declaring their support for the bipartisan letter opposing the ATT that was led in October 2013 by Senators Moran, Inhofe, and Joe Manchin (D-WV).
Thanks to the leadership of Moran and Inhofe, every single Republican in the Senate, plus Sen. Manchin, now supports the October 2013 letter, making 55 sitting Senators in all. Together with Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN), who signed a separate letter in 2013, there are now 58 sitting Senators opposed to the ratification of the ATT. If the Administration ever gets around to transmitting the treaty to the Senate, it will go nowhere.
In the House, the invaluable Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) has led a parallel letter, signed by 34 freshmen Republicans, making a total of 191 sitting members of the House who oppose the ATT. In both the Senate and the House, opposition to the ATT has never been stronger. With luck, that intensity of feeling will be reflected in the coming appropriations cycle for FY2016.
Some members of the Administration may be inclined to write off the sentiments of the House and focus exclusively on the Senate. No doubt, the Senate, responsible as it is for giving its advice and consent on treaties, will have the conclusive vote on the ATT, and there can be little doubt, thanks to Senators Moran and Inhofe, which way that vote will go. But those who dismiss the House might bear a few facts in mind.
Not only is the House, by design of the Constitution, closer to the people than the Senate, it’s also the body that controls appropriations. If the Administration persists in its unwise advocacy of the ATT, the House, without ever voting on the ATT itself, can do a lot to put a stick in its wheel.
The House also has an equal say on the passage of implementing legislation for treaties, including the ATT. And a final fact: of the 12 freshman Senators now committed to opposing the ATT, six originally joined that cause in October 2013, when they signed Kelly’s previous letter as members of the House. By losing the House, the Administration has helped itself along in losing the Senate as well.