Senators should be ashamed of voting against treaty

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: December 12 2012 | 7:52 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 3:16 am in

By Mason City Globe-Gazette

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We hope that Republican senators who passed former comrade Bob Dole on their way into the Senate chamber last week to vote on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Treaty, felt at least a pang of guilt, welcoming their former party leader and presidential candidate, then slapping him in the face with their votes.

Include our own Sen. Charles Grassley in that lot, who voted against a treaty that would have zero effect on people living in this country, but that could spread the same rights and accommodations afforded the disabled in this country to others around the world — including to disabled Americans when they travel abroad.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is modeled after the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act, which was introduced by Iowa’s Sen. Tom Harkin in 1989, ratified by a unanimous vote of the House and an overwhelming majority of the Senate and signed into law by Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

One of the U.S. bill’s original sponsors was Sen. Dole, who lost the use of his right arm in World War II. Dole, now in poor health, was present for the debate Tuesday, arriving in a wheelchair pushed by his wife, Elizabeth. Dole supported passing the U.N. treaty, as did conservative stalwart Sen. John McCain, many former Republican icons, every veterans group and groups advocating for the rights of the disabled.

Why vote against a treaty that included language specifically preventing it from being used to change U.S. law or to be used in U.S. lawsuits? Why vote against a treaty that called on other countries to pass laws on the rights of the disabled that have already been in effect here for 30 years?

Part of the reason was petty politics and an agreement not to pass treaties in the lame duck session of Congress.

But other opposition was just wacky, led by now former Sen. Rick Santorum, who had some ridiculous arguments about the treaty jeopardizing the sanctity of the family, home-schoolers and “American sovereignty.” Sure, and then the U.N.’s black helicopters will steal all our pets, too.

The vote for the treaty was 61-38, which ordinarily would be enough to pass even the filibuster-enfeebled Senate. But treaties need a two-thirds vote, so the measure — a global agreement “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities” — failed.

The treaty has been ratified by 125 other countries. It has been signed by President Obama. It would have no effect on Americans except maybe to make disabled Americans who travel abroad a little more comfortable and enabled.

Eight GOP senators including McCain voted for the treaty. The 38 Republican senators who voted against it, including Grassley, should be ashamed.

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