The Senate rejected a United Nations treaty aimed at banning discrimination against individuals with disabilities on Tuesday. The treaty fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority necessary to pass in a 61 to 38 vote.
John Kerry, an advocate for the treaty, said in a statement following the vote’s outcome: “This is one of the saddest days I’ve seen in almost 28 years in the Senate. It needs to be a wakeup call about a broken institution that’s letting down the American people. We need to fix this place.”
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities calls for participating countries to guarantee equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in regards to education, healthcare, and more. The treaty was based largely on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and was negotiated by President George W Bush in 2006. It has since been signed by President Obama, and 126 other countries have ratified the treaty.
John Kerry (D-Mass) and John McCain (R-Ariz) stood side by side on Monday, imploring the Senate to pass the treaty in the next day’s vote. Former Senator Bob Dole, along with wife Elizabeth, attended the vote on Tuesday to urge the treaty’s ratification. The former senator watched from his wheelchair as members voted from their desks instead of walking to the podium, as is customary.
Many Republicans, however, have been vocal in their opposition to the treaty. They accounted for many of the 38 opposing votes. Republicans claim the treaty gives too much power to other nations and infringes upon US sovereignty.
“I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society,” Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said on the Senate floor.
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) added, “I and many of my constituents who home-school or send their children to religious schools have justifiable doubt that a foreign body based in Geneva, Switzerland, should be deciding what is best for a child at home in Utah.”
Rick Santorium, a former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate, has taken up opposition to the treaty, stating that it is an “egregious move to deny parents of children with disabilities the right to do what they think is in their child’s best interest.”
McCain joined with Kerry in stressing the importance of the treaty to disabled veterans abroad. “We need to step up and do the right thing for Bob Dole and the rest of our U.S. veterans,” McCain said Monday.