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Senate Fails To Get Supermajority For Worldwide Disability Rights Treaty

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The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was brought to the U.S. Senate for ratification, but it failed to achieve the supermajority of a two thirds vote, to gain ratification. According to Congressman Jim Langevin, the ratification would have had no effect on US law, only taking effect for Americans overseas.

Former republican Senator Bob Dole attended, in his wheelchair, to support the bill, but 38 of the 47 republicans voted against it.

Republicans Against Treaties In Lame Duck Session

Before the vote, it was already known that the treaty would have a difficult time, because republicans had previously all agreed not to pass any treaties in the "lame duck" session. Their main objection to this treaty, even though it is based on the U.S. ADA, is that it could pose threats to U.S. sovereignty.

155 other nations have already signed the treaty, which holds that nations should strive to assure that disabled citizens have the same rights and freedoms as all other citizens.

UN Bureaucratic Regulations

Republicans also do not like the bureaucratic regulations that always come with UN treaties, and they see the UN as an organization biased against the US.

Congressman Langevin (D-RI) says defeat of the U.N. treaty in the U.S. Senate denies the chance to show U.S. leadership on "this major human rights issue."

Langevin, the wheelchair-bound Rhode Island democrat, joined Senators John Kerry and John McCain at a news conference before the vote, urging passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Disabled Democrat Disappointed

Congressman Langevin expressed major disappointment after the Senate vote. He says the treaty "seeks to extend many of the principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act to people with disabilities around the world and to Americans, including disabled veterans, who are traveling or living abroad."

Langevin co-chairs the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus and is the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress. He went to the Senate floor to speak with Senators about the significance of the treaty before the vote. Republicans had also been pressured by conservative groups wary of UN overreach into the lives of Americans.

Congressman Jim Langevin said:

"As the country that set the standard for recognizing the rights of people with disabilities when we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act more than 20 years ago, I am saddened that a specious and irrational case against this treaty prevailed today. We have failed to capitalize on a unique chance to give opportunities to millions of people around the world.

"As we heard yesterday from Dick Thornburgh, Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush, nothing in this document would change the law of the United States. Instead, it would have provided the United States a leadership role in efforts to improve conditions abroad, including for Americans.

"I would like to thank Senators John Kerry, John McCain and Tom Harkin, who demonstrated true bipartisan leadership on the rights of people with disabilities, and express my appreciation to the Senators who joined them in supporting the treaty, including Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, from my home state of Rhode Island.

"While this is a major setback, this fight will not end today. I have long said that people with disabilities are America's greatest untapped resource. The same is true across the world. By opening the doors of opportunity, accessibility to buildings and transportation, health care, education, and employment, I know that we can help every individual fulfill his or her potential and participate fully in his or her community. It shouldn't be only in America that someone in a wheelchair can rise to one of the country's highest offices."

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