Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Considering the CRPD

The United States Senate today voted to proceed to Executive Session in order to consider the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Debate on a resolution of advice and consent to ratification is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

The Convention, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 13, 2006, and opened for signature on March 30, 2007, is intended to ensure that states protect the human rights and guarantee the full legal equality of persons with disabilities. It entered into force on May 3, 2008, and currently has 126 parties. Another 28 states, including the United States, have signed but not ratified.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported the CRPD favorably on July 31, 2012, with three reservations, eight understandings, and two declarations. The three reservations pertain to federalism issues (preserving in some instances state laws that would provide less protection for the rights of the disabled than required by the Convention), private conduct (allowing federal law to retain some provisions that allow for discrimination against the disabled as a matter of private conduct), and torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment (duplicating existing U.S. reservations regarding torture to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment). The eight understandings are generally intended to ensure that the Convention's terms will be interpreted in a manner consistent with existing U.S. law.

The motion to proceed to Executive Session was passed today by a 61-36 vote. Sixty-seven votes will be necessary to adopt the resolution of advice and consent to ratification if all 100 members of the Senate are present and voting. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), who has a disabled daughter, and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), a Tea Party favorite, appeared together today to announce their opposition to the CRPD. It is unclear whether the Convention can gain the two-thirds majority required to give the Senate's consent to ratification during the current lame-duck session. In September, 36 Republicans--more than a third of the Senate's membership--signed a letter opposing any action on treaties in the session following the election.

Obstructing the majority while alienating whole sectors of the population continues to be the Republicans' strategy in Congress. If successful this time, it will deal another blow to the credibility of U.S. leadership on human rights.