Politics

December 4, 2012

Republicans block UN disability treaty

Despite support from prominent Republicans like John McCain and Bob Dole, the GOP successfully blocks a treaty to protect the rights of disabled people in America and around the world.

The Associated Press

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This handout video image provided by CSPAN2 shows former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, right, wheeled into the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 4,2012, by his wife Elizabeth Dole. Frail and in a wheelchair, Dole was a startling presence on the Senate floor as lawmakers voted on a treaty on disabilities. The 89-year-old Republican was in the well of the Senate on the GOP side of the chamber, his wife Elizabeth nearby. Dole recently had been hospitalized but came to the Senate to push for the treaty. (AP Photo/CSPAN2)

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., center, gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, to urge Senate approval of an international agreement for protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities. From second from left are, Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Kerry and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

They said the treaty, by encouraging other countries to emulate the rights and facilities for the disabled already existing in the United States, would be of benefit for disabled Americans, particularly veterans, who want to work, travel or study abroad.

Supporters also rejected the argument that it was inappropriate to consider an international treaty in a post-election lame-duck session. They said that since the 1970s the Senate had voted to approve treaties 19 times during lame-duck sessions.

But in September, 36 Republican senators signed a letter saying they would not vote for any treaty during the lame duck,

The opposition was led by tea party favorite Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who argued that the treaty by its very nature threatened U.S. sovereignty. Specifically he expressed concerns that the treaty could lead to the state, rather than parents, determining what was in the best interest of disabled children in such areas as home schooling, and that language in the treaty guaranteeing the disabled equal rights to reproductive health care could lead to abortions. Parents, Lee said, will "raise their children with the constant looming threat of state interference."

Supporters said such concerns were unfounded.

"I am frankly upset," said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., "that they have succeeded in scaring the parents who home-school their children all over this country." He said he said his office had received dozens of calls from home-schooling parents urging him to vote against the convention.

The conservative Heritage Action for America urged senators to vote no against the treaty, saying it would be recorded as a key vote on their scorecard. It repeated the argument that the treaty "would erode the principles of American sovereignty and federalism."

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