Disability Rights Dealt a Setback

Bob Dole (right) tried to sway votes for the treaty

Not even the presence of former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole in a wheelchair could sway enough votes to ratify a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled in the US Senate. The treaty, modeled after the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has already been signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries, states that nations should strive to assure that the disabled enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as their fellow citizens.

Thirty-eight Republicans voted no on the treaty leaving the measure five votes short of the 2/3rds majority needed to ratify a treaty. Former senator Bob Dole was on hand to lend his support to the treaty as were Senator John McCain (who suffered debilitating injuries in Vietnam) and Dick Lugar, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. The treaty had been widely backed by the disabilities community and veterans groups.

Republicans who opposed the treaty cited it possibly being a threat to US national sovereignty. Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, said, “I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society”. Inhofe did not go into detail about what regulations he was referring to but the Republican led senate has been averse to any measures supported by the United Nations.

The US does have the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, but the defeat of the UN treaty had many supporters upset including Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry who lamented the decision by saying it was “one of the saddest days I’ve seen in almost 28 years in the Senate and it need to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that’s letting down the American People”.

If you think the ADA is unnecessary, check out our blog next week.

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