Senate fails to approve disabilities treaty

 

The Senate was unable to garner a two-thirds vote this month to pass a resolution of advice and consent to ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a treaty strongly supported by the ABA.

Although eight Republicans joined Democrats voting in favor of the treaty, the 61-38 vote fell five votes short of the 66 required.

The convention, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2006 and went into force in 2008, has been ratified by 126 countries. The convention requires parties to the treaty “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”

In a Dec. 3 letter to all senators, ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman explained that the World Health Organization estimates that more than 650 million people – approximately 10 percent of the world’s population – live with disabilities and unfortunately are often excluded from the mainstream of society in education, employment and housing.

“The CRPD sets forth globally accepted legal standards on disability rights and clarifies the application of human rights principles to persons with disabilities,” Susman wrote, emphasizing that the treaty also serves as an authoritative reference point for the development and refinement of relevant disability law and policy and is intended as an instrument covering all disabilities and is applicable across economic sectors.

“Global implementation of the CRPD will benefit not only citizens of countries that have not previously ensured protection of these rights, but also Americans with disabilities and their families traveling to or working within those counties,” he said.

Responding to critics of the convention who claim that it would threaten U.S. sovereignty and open the United States up to lawsuits, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) maintained that the treaty will not create any new rights that do not otherwise exist in U.S. law. The U.S. obligations under the treaty are to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability only with respect to rights already recognized and implemented under U.S. law, he explained.

The ABA concurs that ratification will not require changes in domestic law and “would send a clear signal to the world of our support for the human rights principles of  the convention.”

Ratification of the convention would allow the United States to participate fully in the annual Conference of States Parties to the convention. In addition, the United States would be able to seek a seat on the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an independent advisory group that monitors implementation of the convention.

 

Return to the December Washington Letter

Advertisement

ABA Washington Letter

The ABA Washington Letter is a monthly publication produced by the Governmental Affairs Office to report and analyze congressional and executive branch action on legislative issues of interest to the ABA and the legal profession. The newsletter highlights ABA involvement in the federal legislative process and focuses on the association's legislative and governmental priorities and other issues on which the ABA has policy.

ABA Washington Letter Archive

Contact: Rhonda J. McMillion Editor, 202-662-1017

 

ABA Washington Summary 

The ABA Washington Summary is a daily online publication providing up-to-date information on congressional and executive branch activity with regard to legislative issues of interest to the organized bar. Sources include the Congressional Record and Federal Register. The contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the positions of the American Bar Association.

Current ABA Washington Summary

ABA Washington Summary Archive

Contact: Deanna Falcone Editor, 202-662-1016