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Disability Treaty Defeated in Senate Would Have Made No Changes to US Law

Harry Reid blasted out a reaction to the Senate defeat of an international treaty on disabilities, and the part that should jump out at you is this:

It is a sad day when we cannot pass a treaty that simply brings the world up to the American standard for protecting people with disabilities because the Republican party is in thrall to extremists and ideologues. The United States is seen as a leader around the world. Today, we had a chance to lead, and we failed because a small group of Republican senators fear the Tea Party more than they care about equality for people with disabilities.

That’s right, the treaty in question, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was modeled on current US law, specifically the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. The treaty merely would bring the signatories around the world up to the standard of the ADA, with non-binding language to that effect. No US law would have changed if the treaty passed and the US became a signatory.

In fact, the real victims here, aside from countries who use the US rejection as cover to reject the treaty themselves, are disabled US veterans abroad. If you haven’t been paying attention, we have a few disabled members of the military these days after two wars. They may not benefit from the model of the Americans with Disabilities Act being put into place in the countries abroad in which they serve. So the 38 Republicans who voted against this today really slapped veterans and active military in the face. I don’t know whether these Republicans had home schooling in mind, or whether they concluded that a fleeting reference to “reproductive health” in the treaty mandated abortions, or what. But the disabled veteran who can’t find a wheelchair on-ramp in some foreign country should know who to blame.

Incidentally, eight Republicans voted for the treaty. Three of them are retiring (Richard Lugar, Scott Brown, and Olympia Snowe). John McCain is disabled himself and he could only get a handful of his colleagues – new best pal Kelly Ayotte, Lisa Murkowski, John Barrasso, and Susan Collins – to vote with him. Even Lindsey Graham said no to his fellow amigo!

Reid said he planned to bring the treaty up for another vote in the next Congress. I don’t know if it will matter – the two Democratic pickups were in Brown and Lugar’s seats, and they voted for the treaty. With the Constitutionally required 2/3 supermajority needed for treaties, and the conservative wing always available to gin up a controversy about anything, you can probably kiss international treaties goodbye for the near future.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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