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Ear to the Ground

GOP Senators Kill Treaty That Would Have Protected Disabled

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Posted on Dec 5, 2012
Wikimedia Commons / Scrumshus

Thanks to the efforts of Republicans, a treaty that would have protected disabled people around the world was not ratified by the Senate when it was put to a vote Tuesday. The final tally on the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities was 61 to 38, a few votes shy of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. All 38 “nay” votes were cast by Republicans.

The treaty forbids discrimination against those with disabilities. So why didn’t Republicans want to pass it? Because, they argue, the international treaty could interfere with U.S. law. Or, in the words of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a staunch opponent of the treaty, what it actually represents is “a direct assault on us.”

To be fair, there were Republicans who didn’t share Santorum’s absurd viewpoint. Like outgoing Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, who said, “With these provisions, the United States can join the convention as an expression—an expression—of our leadership on disability rights without ceding any of our ability to decide for ourselves how best to address those issues in our law.”

But for the most part, and as evidenced by the final vote count, the party was inexplicably split on the treaty.

The Washington Post:

Among its most vocal supporters were Republican war veterans, including President George H.W. Bush and former senator Bob Dole, who was injured in World War II and made a rare return to the Senate floor Tuesday to observe the vote and lend his stature.

Other conservatives were deeply suspicious of the United Nations, which would oversee treaty obligations. Those who opposed the treaty included former senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, the father of a developmentally disabled child who had traveled to Capitol Hill last week to encourage fellow Republicans to vote no.

He and other conservatives argued that the treaty could relinquish U.S. sovereignty to a U.N. committee charged with overseeing a ban on discrimination and determining how the disabled, including children, should be treated. They particularly worried that the committee could violate the rights of parents who choose to home school their disabled children.

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—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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