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Posted by on Dec 5, 2012 in Featured, International, Politics | 26 comments

Dysfunction and Lies: Senate Vote Beyond Shameful

wheelchair in snowUpdated. This is why Congressional approval rating is in the doldrums.

There was a Republican in the White House when Congress passed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. And a Republican, Bob Dole (KS), who helped push it through. It was the culmination of a legal movement that got national purchase with Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.

On Tuesday, the Senate finally considered a U.N. treaty (two-third vote needed), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, modeled on the ADA.

“This treaty embodied the same goals the United States had in enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act – to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and full integration into society,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said in a statement.

In essence, the treaty extends the ADA globally. It has been signed by 153 countries, including China and Russia.

Who negotiated the treaty on behalf of the U.S.? President George W. Bush. (He urged passage in a letter to the Senate, pdftip)

President Barack Obama then signed the treaty in 2009, but treaties must be ratified by the Senate to be binding. Former Sen. and Vice Presidential candidate Dole was on the floor Tuesday, urging the Senate to ratify the treaty; he was in a wheelchair and was accompanied by his wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC). The Washington Post urged passage this weekend in an editorial.

This is not your Senate, or your Republican Party, Mr. Dole.

The Republican members of the U.S. Senate voted it down, 61-38-1.

Those 38 nays? All Republicans who, it seems, cower before the lies of the rabid right.

roll call vote

Lawrence Downes writes:

The vote was a triumph for Glenn Beck, Rick Santorum and others on the hard-right loon fringe, who have been feverishly denouncing the treaty as a United Nations world-government conspiracy to kill disabled children (you can look it up).[hyperlinks added]

The eight Republicans voting “yes”

  1. Kelly Ayotte, NH
  2. John Barrasso, WY
  3. Scott Brown, MA
  4. Susan Collins, ME
  5. Richard Lugar, IN
  6. Lisa Murkowski, AK
  7. John McCain, AZ
  8. Olympia Snowe, ME

Of those eight, who won’t be back in January? Brown, Lugar and Snowe. Lugar spoke in support of the measure:

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, defeated by a Tea Party candidate in the GOP primary last spring, made one of the final speeches of his 36 year Senate career in support of the treaty. “With these provisions, the United States can join the convention as an expression — an expression — of our leadership on disability rights without ceding any of out ability to decide for ourselves how best to address those issues in our laws,” said Lugar.

Kerry and Lugar have been trying to get a vote on this since July. They postponed the vote even though the Rs didn’t have enough votes for a filibuster?

Who to believe?

“It would take a step toward making it easier for disabled Americans to live and work overseas, without impinging on U.S. sovereignty or Congress’ authority to determine our disability laws,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a rising star in the conservative ranks, said in a statement. “Veterans service groups are especially supportive of the treaty, which would help level the playing field for disabled veterans who are abroad.” (RollCall)


“I do oppose the CRPD because I think it does impinge upon our sovereignty,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). “Unelected bureaucratic bodies would implement the treaty and pass so-called recommendations that would be forced upon the United Nations and the U.S. … This would especially affect those parents who home-school their children. … The unelected foreign bureaucrats, not parents, would decide what is in the best interests of the disabled child, even in the home.”


“I and many of my constituents who home-school or send their children to religious schools,” said [Mike Lee (UT)], “have justifiable doubt that a foreign body based in Geneva, Switzerland, should be deciding what is best for a child at home in Utah.” (TMP)


“Today the dysfunction hurt veterans and the disabled, and that’s unacceptable. This treaty was supported by every veterans group in America and Bob Dole made an inspiring and courageous personal journey back to the Senate to fight for it. It had bipartisan support, and it had the facts on its side, and yet for one ugly vote, none of that seemed to matter. We won’t give up on this and the Disabilities Treaty will pass because it’s the right thing to do, but today I understand better than ever before why Americans have such disdain for Congress and just how much must happen to fix the Senate so we can act on the real interests of our country.” (NYT)

Also supporting the treaty: the American Bar Association as well as 21 veterans’ organizations and 165 disabilities groups.

Do you believe their legal analysis or Rick Santorum’s?

I agree with Kerry (for once). This is a very sad day in the history of the Senate.

Corrected: Brown isn’t coming back in January, either.
Photo, Flickr Creative Commons License

Added: States with two “no” votes

  1. Alabama: Sessions (R-AL), Nay   |  Shelby (R-AL), Nay
  2. Georgia: Chambliss (R-GA), Nay   |  Isakson (R-GA), Nay
  3. Idaho: Crapo (R-ID), Nay   |  Risch (R-ID), Nay
  4. Kansas: Moran (R-KS), Nay   |  Roberts (R-KS), Nay
  5. Kentucky: McConnell (R-KY), Nay   |  Paul (R-KY), Nay
  6. Mississippi: Cochran (R-MS), Nay   |  Wicker (R-MS), Nay
  7. Oklahoma: Coburn (R-OK), Nay   |  Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
  8. South Carolina: DeMint (R-SC), Nay   |  Graham (R-SC), Nay
  9. Tennessee: Alexander (R-TN), Nay   |  Corker (R-TN), Nay
  10. Texas: Cornyn (R-TX), Nay   |  Hutchison (R-TX), Nay
  11. Utah: Hatch (R-UT), Nay   |  Lee (R-UT), Nay

Added: States with one “no” vote

  1. Arizona: Kyl (R-AZ), Nay   |  McCain (R-AZ), Yea
  2. Arkansas: Boozman (R-AR), Nay   |  Pryor (D-AR), Yea
  3. Florida: Nelson (D-FL), Yea   |  Rubio (R-FL), Nay
  4. Indiana: Coats (R-IN), Nay   |  Lugar (R-IN), Yea
  5. Iowa: Grassley (R-IA), Nay   |  Harkin (D-IA), Yea
  6. Louisiana: Landrieu (D-LA), Yea   |  Vitter (R-LA), Nay
  7. Missouri: Blunt (R-MO), Nay   |  McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
  8. Nebraska: Johanns (R-NE), Nay   |  Nelson (D-NE), Yea
  9. Nevada: Heller (R-NV), Nay   |  Reid (D-NV), Yea
  10. North Carolina: Burr (R-NC), Nay   |  Hagan (D-NC), Yea
  11. North Dakota: Conrad (D-ND), Yea   |  Hoeven (R-ND), Nay
  12. Ohio: Brown (D-OH), Yea   |  Portman (R-OH), Nay
  13. Pennsylvania: Casey (D-PA), Yea   |  Toomey (R-PA), Nay
  14. South Dakota: Johnson (D-SD), Yea   |  Thune (R-SD), Nay
  15. Wisconsin: Johnson (R-WI), Nay   |  Kohl (D-WI), Yea
  16. Wyoming: Barrasso (R-WY), Yea   |  Enzi (R-WY), Nay

Senators voting no on UN treaty

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Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • ShannonLeee

    Not surprisingly, all of the NAY states still have the Klan. Not that the Klan has much to do with, it is more that ignorance seems flourish in certain parts of the country.

  • The_Ohioan

    The Klan is alive and well in all states, some more than others, it’s true, and militias and supremacists, also. The fact that we have a president who is non-white (and has international ties as well) gives all of them an excuse to allow this xenophobia to flourish – no matter how it’s disgised.

  • Momzworld

    I couldn’t agree more, Ohio.

  • It is a mark of extreme arrogance to assume that we have the right to dictate to other countries how they treat their own citizens.

    Treaties like this, however good intentioned, are NOT THE ROLE OF THE UNITED NATIONS!

    The U.N.’s initial, primary mandate is to settle disputes between countries. It is NOT there to dictate terms to sovereign nations on things within their borders.

    Everyone is getting upset with this as a “disabilities issue”, but it’s really a “rights of sovereign nations” issue.

    Remember: we, too, are a sovereign nation. Does the U.N. have the right to tell us how to run OUR internal affairs?? No way in hell.

  • Barky – help me out here. What was your position on the invasion of Iraq? What is your position on trade with China? What is your position on genital mutilation of girls?

    I ask these questions in all seriousness. You see, I don’t think we (the US) should unilaterally dictate behavior either.

    For the record, WE are not dictating anything — 150+ other countries have already signed on to this treaty which is modeled on our ADA. And the UN doesn’t DICTATE anything — yes, I’m shouting but the UN has only the powers that its member countries grant it. In this case, as in many human rights actions (think landmines) we are conspicuous by our absence.

    This treaty? No one is dictating behavior to others. NO ONE.

    Thanks to the three of you who posted first. The map I generated is a nod to your conversation. Please share it.

  • fred_bloggs

    Barky: You may want to re-read the UN Charter (esp, Article 1, Clause 3) as this treaty is exactly in line with the role of the UN.

    There is no dictate of terms, the treaty is agreed to by the signatories. Of course, the irony is that the US leads with the ADA (upon which the treaty is modeled) and then fails to ratify the global version.

    It is difficult for a country to lead the way for others when it can’t even take the trail it is blazing.

  • Kathy, you’re asking me a “do you still beat your wife” type of entrapment question. I’m not interested in playing that game.

    My position has nothing to do with whether or not something is good or bad. My position has everything to do with whether or not the U.N. has the right to interfere in what happens within a country. It is my view that the U.N. has overreached its intended mandate.

    Let me toss out another question: if only signatories are agreeing to this, AND the U.S. already does this under the ADA, then why do we need to sign anything? What possible purpose is this treaty serving?

    We are not answerable to the U.N. We already have the ADA. Why the parlor tricks?

  • Barky, no I’m not. I’m trying to understand where you think it’s OK to intervene (impose our will on others). The fact that you refuse to answer suggests you supported the invasion of Iraq. If that is true, I’d argue that your argument re the UN is fallacious.

  • zephyr

    Thanks Kathy for your post and comments. Looking at that map is revealing isn’t it.

    it is more that ignorance seems flourish in certain parts of the country – Shannon

    The usual suspects…

  • zusa1

    Kathy, I haven’t read a lot about this, but I did read that there was some amended language that would have addressed republican issue(s) and brought more on board. Do you know why it was rejected?

  • sheknows

    The list of signatures speaks volumes . All Republicans voted nay,( with very few exceptions) all Dems voted yea.
    Once again, this is not about principles, or deeply held convictions, or even about a decent argument.
    This, like most other issues for vote show the same type of division. Coincidence? Of course not.
    This is just all about opposition. Dems say black, reps say white. ( literally and figuratively )

  • SteveK

    Kathy, I haven’t read a lot about this, but I did read that there was some amended language that would have addressed republican issue(s) and brought more on board. Do you know why it was rejected?

    If you read that, what was the ‘some amended language’? It certainly would be helpful in determining whether or not this actually happened or whether it was just another GOP obstruction.

    Republican issues… What were the Republican issues?

    Do you know why the alleged ‘amended language’ was rejected? Why was what added? Why was what (if what actually exists) was it proposed?

    For one who prefaces their remark with “I haven’t read a lot about this” your comment certainly segued into the Dems doing something to the Reps with absolutely no specific facts or citations.

  • zusa1

    SteveK, Thank you for your input, but I thought she probably knew what I was talking about without me trying to re-find the article I read when the first item about this was posted the other day. If there is no reply to my question, no harm.

  • Dr. J

    I also believe elected officials shouldn’t waste their time on trivia.

    I agree, Barky, and props for being willing to poke the bear. Building codes (to pick one area of the ADA) are generally the jurisdiction of local governments, and I don’t understand why the parts about wheelchair ramps need to be escalated to the federal level. Now even federal law is suddenly insufficient, and we need an international treaty to cover them…huh?

    I appreciate the value of the symbolic expression of support for accommodations for the disabled. Is that the proper use of international treaties? Plenty of other groups make do with lesser symbolic expressions than this, or indeed none at all. What about symbolic line-drawing on the issues of US sovereignty or jurisdictional boundaries? Why should this trump those?

    And what about the people who feel differently? I have no idea if these red-state parents of disabled kids have any rational basis for fearing foreigners in Brussels dictating to them, but that’s apparently their fear, and rational behavior is a tall order. Sympathy, as in sympathy for the disabled, is arguably not very rational either.

    In any case, Congress’s entire job is to choose between one interest group versus another (rational or not) on myriad issues, so it has to come down either on the parents’ side or on OP’s. If Congress is “beyond shameful” for accommodating those parents, hopefully that’s not just because they live in the wrong states.

  • The_Ohioan

    Ya, let the churches and charities see to the welfare of the gimps, the blind and all those other handicapped (flawed) folk. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to spend good money just to allow more competition in the job market; things are bad enough as it is.

    If a company wants to hire a gimp, they will build a ramp for them. If a government office wants to hire a gimp, or make it easier for them to get into government buildings, they can ask for donations to build a ramp. It certainly isn’t the taxpayers job to pamper these unfortunates. We all got problems, don’t we?

    And as far as the UN, churches and charities have national and international organizations – let them handle the gimps in Bangladesh. This whole business of making everything OK for these flawed folks is getting out of hand. If God didn’t want to make them normal or they had an accidet, tough luck. Just because a writer back in the 19th century had a bee in his bonnet and sold a lot of books about working conditions back then is no reason to keep changing things. This is the 21st century, for Pete’s sake. Get a grip.

  • Dr. J

    I’m not sure who you’re responding to, Ohioan. I don’t think anyone came out against the ADA.

    As far as Bangladesh goes, it’s a reasonable concern, and so is the jurisdictional question. Nothing in Congress’s action (or inaction) decides policies in Bangladesh. Which is appropriate, as they have another country to run, and Bangladesh already has a government.

  • The_Ohioan

    Did they not? I thought raising wheel chair ramp regulations to the national level (ADA), and then as a goal to the international level was seen as a problem. My mistake. If Congress can’t decide policies in Bangladesh, and Bangladesh can’t decide them here, that must mean the UN can’t decide them anywhere, but only suggest their application – like they do that torture thing.

  • Dr. J

    I can see how you could interpret my comment as critical of the ADA, but my point was that we seem to be able to settle most building code questions well below the federal level. Perhaps someone can explain why this class of issues now requires escalation to the international level?

    I’m not sure what your point is about the UN. Yes, UN policies generally lack teeth, and this particular one is agreed already in 154 countries, so it’s mostly symbolic. Which was part of my comment above.

  • bluebelle

    Why not use our influence to set the standard for how disabled people are treated in other countries?? It costs us nothing to expand the functionality of this class of people– or do we only care about Americans??

    I thought conservatives believed in exerting US leadership— is that only at the point of an AK47 or do we have peaceful uses of American power?? The rejection seems too mean-spirited and small for a country with our ideals

  • Dr. J

    It costs us nothing to expand the functionality of this class of people

    An interesting choice of words, bluebelle, in suggesting they’re dysfunctional on their own. Of course they might be, and heaven knows we’re dysfunctional a good fraction of the time ourselves. But it’s a bold assumption, and it does call to mind Barky’s accusation of arrogance.

    To take Ohioan’s Bangladesh example, the country has a flooding problem that kills thousands and displaces hundreds of thousands every year. If they prioritize other construction projects over wheelchair ramps, they might have good reasons.

    If a treaty like this can meaningfully influence them, and we pressure them for more wheelchair ramps, we might make life worse for both their disabled and able-bodied people.

    Exercising discretion on these issues isn’t mean-spirited, it’s humble, acknowledging our limitations to solve the whole world’s problems.

  • Why not use our influence to set the standard for how disabled people are treated in other countries??

    It is one thing to influence. It is another to enforce through treaty.

    I thought conservatives believed in exerting US leadership

    I think “exerting leadership” in the manner associated with conservatives is BS.

    I have no problem with exerting through diplomacy, or leading by example, or lobbying foreign governments or leveraging NGOs or sponsoring charities or any of these other mechanisms.

    I just have problems with treaties like this inserting their way into the rights of sovereign nations. I also have problems with unwarranted military interventions or spy agencies toppling foreign governments.

    In the end, it is a nation’s choice how they govern within their own borders. It is none of our business. It is only our business when it impacts other nations.

    And to those of you who would say “what about genocide” or any other number of horrific instances, wouldn’t you rather reserve the cudgel of worldwide condemnation on those things that are truly horrific? Seems to me a body like the U.N. would be best served by focusing on those types of issues than demanding people build ramps instead of flood dikes….

  • bluebelle

    Dr. J— If they were fully functional they wouldn’t be disabled right?? That hardly seems like an arrogant assumption.

  • bluebelle

    Barky– all we are doing is setting a standard- for the rest of the world. We are not forcing them to adopt our standards. In my mind it is an opportunity to provide positive leadership and not be cowardly and mean-spirited

  • Dr. J

    Sorry, Bluebelle, I thought you were referring to people in other societies generally, not the disabled specifically, so my response was probably off-point.

    Where I think the arrogance/humility choice comes in is in our assumptions about (1) our expertise on the circumstances in other societies, (2) those societies’ competence to make sensible tradeoffs on their own, and (3) our moral legitimacy to push their outcomes toward our will.

    There are very few problem that can’t be made worse with overly naive tinkering, and at the very least we should have a “first, do no harm” principle.

  • dduck

    If it is true that no outside rules would effect our own states rules, then I am sorry for all the nays.

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