McConnell, Paul Vote Against U.N. Disability Treaty

Visibly frail and in a wheelchair, Bob Dole reappeared on the U.S. Senate floor Tuesday to support ratification of a treaty advocates say will help disabled people worldwide. Dole served in the Senate from 1969 to 1996, many of those years as the Republican leader. He’d been the Republican’s 1996 presidential nominee, the Republicans 1976 vice-presidential nominee and the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Dole is a serious Republican, but the 38 votes against the treaty for which he lobbied came from the GOP. The ratification failed to reach the required 2/3 majority.

Two of those “nays” came from Kentucky — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Another came from Indiana’s Dan Coats.

Indiana’s Dick Lugar — who lost his primary campaign toward re-election this year — voted to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The convention is intended to “is to elaborate in detail the rights of persons with disabilities and set out a code of implementation,” said the chairman of the committee that negoiated the treaty, on the convention’s website. Further:

Countries that join in the Convention engage themselves to develop and carry out policies, laws and administrative measures for securing the rights recognized in the Convention and abolish laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination (Article 4).

The treaty has been ratified in 202 counties, including most of Europe, Canada, China and Russia. The U.N.’s website for the convention.

The Boston Globe said veterans’ groups support the treaty, which was negotiated by President George W. Bush and is supported by President Barack Obama. John Kerry and John McCain –two sitting senators, veterans and former presidential nominees — lobbied for it, the Globe notes.

Proponents argued that the treaty would help further advance rights for the disabled, including Americans already protected by the landmark anti-discrimination law but who, under the treaty, would benefit from barriers falling across the world.

So at least three of the last three Republicans nominated for president support the treaty. One of them is 89 and in a wheelchair, but he showed up to campaign for the treaty, anyway. But Republicans resist, in part on the premise that the treaty infringes on U.S. sovereignty.

Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and a Republican presidential candidate, argued so on Wednesday  a Daily Beast commentary.

As an example in the Daily Best piece, Santorum picks out a line from the treaty stating, “In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” 

How would this new standard play out in a battle between a single mom fighting a stubborn school district for special-education services for her disabled child under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? That landmark legislation signed by President George H.W. Bush made it clear that parents—not government officials using a “best interests of the child” standard—are ultimately in charge of their child’s education. Because of the bill, countless parents have won their fights against public schools that failed to provide adequate services for their special-needs child. CRPD could have changed all that.

Paul’s argument against the treaty falls along the same lines.

“Sen. Paul believes it is always a mistake to surrender U.S. sovereignty to the United Nations, no matter the cause,” Paul communications director Moira Bagley said in a statement to WFPL.org.

“We should not allow our troops to fight under their banner, our tax dollars to support their one-world socialism, or our policies on any group of our citizens to be put under their control.”

I asked McConnell’s campaign for comment, too. If it comes, I’ll update.

The Home School Legal Defense Association encouraged its members to oppose the treaty’s ratification, also arguing that doing so would “threaten parental decision making for children with disabilities.”

The Heritage Foundation argues that the treaty does nothing for Americans with disabilities and, again, would lead to infringements to U.S. sovereignty.

Joseph Lord

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

@joseph_Lord

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