The PJ Tatler

Senator Accuses Obama of Trying to Implement UN Arms Trade Treaty Without Congress

The senator leading the bipartisan coalition against the UN Arms Trade Treaty is concerned about new administration efforts to implement the treaty without bringing it through Congress.


Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) wrote President Obama today to mark the first anniversary of the majority-rule adoption of the treaty by the UN General Assembly.

On Oct. 15, 2013, 50 members of the Senate sent a letter to Obama “pledging to oppose ratification of the treaty, and giving notice that we do not regard the U.S. as bound to uphold its object as purpose.”

“In that letter, we set out six substantive concerns for this position, and invited your response,” Moran noted. “Though Assistant Secretary of State Tom Countryman stated in November that the administration is ‘ready to discuss [the treaty] with people who don’t agree with us…and have offered to do so…repeatedly with very little response,’ we have not received even the courtesy of an acknowledgement.”

A year ago, the Senate passed 53-46 an amendment to keep the U.S. from joining the treaty. Democrats signing the Moran letter were Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

“I must conclude from this fact that your administration is not interested in responding substantively to the concerns we have raised. Particularly in view of our constitutional responsibility for providing advice and consent on treaties, and of your proclaimed intention to rely on executive actions to achieve your policy objectives, I find this troubling,” Moran wrote.


In December, Obama signed into law the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which prohibited the Defense Department from funding any part of the treaty before it’s ratified.

“The views of the Senate having been made clear, I was concerned when your administration announced a new conventional arms export control policy on January 15. While Assistant Secretary Countryman stated in November that ‘becoming a party to the treaty would not require any additional export or import controls for the United States, full stop,’ the new policy, announced only two months later, bears a strong similarity to the criteria and standards in the treaty,” Moran continued.

“I therefore regard this new policy as an effort on the part of your administration to implement the treaty without obtaining the advice and consent of the Senate. I do not regard this policy as required by the treaty’s object and purpose: I view it as a voluntary effort to implement the treaty. I am disturbed both by the secrecy of the process that produced this new policy and the disregard it shows for the role of the Senate, in particular. I therefore call upon you to withdraw this policy and to consult fully with relevant committees and concerned offices as you revise it.”


Moran urged Obama to “notify the treaty depository that the U.S. does not intend to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, and is therefore not bound by its obligations.”

“I pledge to continue leading my colleagues in opposing the ratification of this treaty, and wish to repeat our previous notice that we do not regard the U.S. as bound to uphold its object and purpose,” he said. “Lastly, I now urge you to end any and all efforts to implement the treaty before it passes completely through the entire U.S. ratification process, and thereby to show the respect for the constitutional processes that you are sworn to uphold.”

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