Despite bipartisan support for a United Nations disability rights treaty, a group of Republican lawmakers is holding up U.S. Senate consideration of the matter.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee planned to consider the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last week, but was unable to after Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and a number of other Republicans reportedly placed a hold on it.
The move effectively squashed efforts by supporters of the treaty to get the U.S. to ratify it before the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Thursday.
While the U.S. initially signed the U.N. Convention in 2009, Senate approval is needed for ratification of the treaty, which calls for greater community access and a better standard of living for people with disabilities worldwide.
The delay comes amid opposition from the Home School Legal Defense Association which is urging its members to tell Congress that the treaty “surrenders U.S. sovereignty to unelected U.N. bureaucrats, and will threaten parental control over children with disabilities.”
In a statement to the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill, a DeMint spokesman said he wanted to delay the treaty over largely similar concerns.
“Sen. DeMint strongly opposes this treaty, as the United States is already the world leader in addressing the needs of the disabled and it’s foolish to think Americans need to sign away our sovereignty to exert our influence around the world,” the spokesman said.
Now, disability advocates are hoping that the treaty may be able to gain committee approval later this week.
“It is disappointing to lose a week,” said David Morrissey, executive director of the United States International Council on Disabilities, which is lobbying for ratification. “We want to keep the momentum.”
Morrissey said that advocates continue to make the rounds on Capitol Hill urging support for the treaty, which he says will allow the U.S. to take on an important international leadership role on disability issues.
More than 165 organizations are supporting ratification, which Obama administration officials said would not require any changes to current U.S. law or infringe on the nation’s sovereignty.
Even with concerns from DeMint and some other Republicans, the treaty enjoys bipartisan support with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., among the lawmakers backing it.