John Kerry, Treaties, and Bi-Partisanship


I just received a copy of John Kerry’s floor speech in which he urges his colleagues to vote quickly on the nomination of Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State. This reminded me that I had wanted to write about Kerry’s new job as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Watching the nomination hearings of Senator Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, I must say that John Kerry looks very much at ease in his new role. He asked thoughtful, probing questions and cracked a few jokes when appropriate. Most signficantly, he conducted himself in a way that suggests the bi-partisan comity for which the Committee has been known under the chairmanships of Richard Lugar and Joe Biden will remain intact.

This latter point is pretty important. I’ve never been much a fan of bi-partisanship for its own sake. Rather, the legislative results of bi-partisanship are what matter the most. Still, one case where bi-partisanship is literally essential to legislative success is in the ratification of treaties, which requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate. In the coming months, I expect some movement on two important treaties: The UN Convention on the Law of the Seas and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Additionally, testimony at the Rice and Clinton hearings suggest that the Obama administration wants to move on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ratifying any of these treaties would be an important step forward. But for ratification to be a success Kerry must tread carefully and be as inclusive as possible to the needs of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. From what I have seen so far, I am hopeful that Kerry is the right person for the job.