Senate To Revive Disability Rights Treaty
The U.S. Senate is gearing up to reconsider an international disability rights treaty that was rejected by the body on its first go-around last year.
The Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to take up the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at a hearing this coming Tuesday. It will mark the first time that lawmakers will consider ratifying the treaty since it was defeated in a vote last December that fell largely across party lines.
The convention calls for greater community access and a better standard of living for people with disabilities worldwide.
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Ahead of the hearing, Vice President Joe Biden rallied supporters Friday, meeting with a group of disability advocates at The White House to discuss the administration’s backing of the treaty.
Meanwhile, disability advocacy groups are urging their members to attend Tuesday’s hearing and to lobby members of the Senate committee. A broad coalition of over 700 disability, civil rights, faith, business and veterans organizations favor ratification.
The path forward, however, is anything but certain.
The United States signed the convention back in 2009, but Senate approval is needed in order to make participation official. Last year, President Barack Obama sent the treaty to the Senate for ratification. Despite bipartisan support for the treaty, opposition from Republicans was strong and the measure failed to garner the two-thirds majority required for ratification.
Opponents of the convention — spearheaded by former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., the Heritage Foundation and the Home School Legal Defense Association — have argued that the treaty would compromise U.S. sovereignty and threaten the ability of parents to determine what’s best for their kids.
Supporters, however, say those arguments are baseless and that the treaty would merely extend many of the protections already in place domestically under the Americans with Disabilities Act to those abroad without requiring any change to U.S. law.
To date, 138 countries have already ratified the convention, according to the U.N.