Disability Treaty Faces Uphill Struggle in Senate

Monday, 24 Feb 2014 09:06 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Senate Republicans are refusing to sign an international treaty intended to protect the rights of the disabled, arguing the agreement could trample the sovereignty of U.S. law.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been signed by 141 countries and is backed by the White House, former President George H.W. Bush, top U.S. disability and veterans advocacy groups, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but GOP lawmakers continue to refuse to ratify it, according to Bloomberg.
 
Opposition to the treaty is being led by Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, the Heritage Foundation, and home-school advocates who say that adopting it would allow international authorities to dictate the treatment of Americans with disabilities and possibly the permissibility of home schooling and ease of access to abortion, Bloomberg reports.

Proponents of the treaty say it was largely modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. They say that the agreement simply requires countries to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and are treated with the same dignity of others, according to Bloomberg.

They also argue that there is no evidence in the treaty to support the concerns of critics claiming it could supersede U.S. law.

"What values here do these opponents not believe in?" Tim Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, told Bloomberg. "This treaty brings to the table a place where America is the shining light on the hill."

At the moment, it is estimated there are 61 senators in favor of the treaty, including every Senate Democrat and six Republicans, but it needs another six to gain passage.

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who unsuccessfully lobbied for the treaty's passage in 2012, said when he ran the Senate it "would have passed by voice vote," according to Bloomberg. Nevertheless, he remains optimistic that it will pass at some point in the future.

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