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Keeler: Failed treaty erodes American leadership on disability issues

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, left, voices his opposition

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, left, voices his opposition to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during a news conference with his wife Karen Santorum, his daughters, Isabella and Sarah, and his son Daniel at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Nov. 26, 2012) (Credit: Getty Chip Somodevilla)

Once again, the United States has refused to be part of the family of nations, and the reasons behind that refusal are loony.

Take the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This is an area where our nation has been a leader. The Americans with Disabilities Act has helped people suffering from a variety of disabilities. To take just one example: The omnipresent ramps into public buildings and places of business allow people in wheelchairs and other mobility devices to gain access. In too many countries around the world, though, this breakthrough has yet to occur. In other words, this is an area where our nation can make a legitimate claim to being a global leader.

So, along comes a UN treaty that would help spread that kind of thinking to other nations. President George W. Bush—nobody’s idea of a socialist, world government kind of guy— signed it. So did President Barack Obama. And its backers include former Sen. Robert Dole, a conservative Kansas Republican. But when it came to a vote in the United States Senate today, the treaty fell five votes short of the required two-thirds majority (66 votes).


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As usual, the debating points against it included a variety of bizarre theories about how this treaty would limit American sovereignty.

One of the leading proponents of that theory was Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). His main hobby is climate change denial, but his pastimes also include treaty-killing. The objections also included the claim that it would somehow impinge on American law. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said clearly: “It doesn’t require any changes to American law, zero.”

There’s a long list of international agreements that our nation has chosen not to join, but somehow, this rejection feels even less defensible than those in the past, such as the Senate’s unfathomable inability to accept the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. That agreement, also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty, enjoys wide support from the military and maritime industries. But not enough in the Senate.

Sadly, today’s vote reaffirms the we are well on the way to becoming an outlaw nation.

Pictured above: Former Sen. Rick Santorum, left, voices his opposition to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during a news conference with his wife Karen Santorum, his daughters, Isabella and Sarah, and his son Daniel at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Nov. 26, 2012)

Tags: united nations , disabilities , treaty , diplomacy , united states

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