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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Coming to a head

Congress | Conservative groups rise to oppose a controversial international disabilities treaty that could become the ‘supreme law of the land’

WASHINGTON—With the country 35 days away from plunging off the fiscal cliff, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced his intention to bring a controversial United Nations disabilities treaty up for a vote this week.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has drawn a host of opposition from conservative groups, but Reid said he plans to file a cloture petition Tuesday, which with 60 votes could bring the treaty to a vote as early as Thursday. Once it comes to the floor, 67 votes are required for ratification.

The Family Research Council is urging its supporters to contact their senators to voice opposition to the CRPD. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), Heritage Action, Let Freedom Ring, Concerned Women for America, the Eagle Forum, and Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices are also working against the treaty.

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Santorum, HSLDA founder Mike Farris, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Monday held a joint press conference to denounce the treaty and present a petition signed by about 9,000 parents of children with disabilities. Joni and Friends, the disabilities group started by quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada, sparked the petition less than two weeks ago when the organization announced its opposition to the CRPD (see “Disabilities group opposes UN treaty,” Nov. 17).

Lee, and Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), are leading efforts in the Senate against ratification. In September, 36 Senators signed a letter to Reid stating they were opposed to bringing any treaty up for a floor vote during the lame-duck session (see “Mounting opposition,” Sept. 27). The signers have maintained the commitment, but since only 60 votes are required to bring the treaty to the floor, it’s unclear how they would vote if presented with the treaty.

“I would expect a senator who has signed that letter will hang with it and vote against the CRPD in the lame duck, [but] we’re not taking it for granted,” said Will Estrada, HSLDA’s director of federal relations. He said HSLDA is also urging people to call their senators.

Conservatives are concerned the pact would undermine U.S. sovereignty and infringe on parental rights, because the U.S. Constitution guarantees a treaty will become the “supreme law of the land” once ratified by the Senate (see “Undue influence,” Aug. 14).

Among other issues, the treaty includes the phrase “sexual and reproductive health,” language that some claim includes the right to an abortion. The Vatican has already refused to sign the treaty on the grounds that it may be used to promote abortion.

CRPD proponents, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former President George H.W. Bush, say the treaty would extend the reach of the Americans with Disabilities Act to U.S. citizens traveling abroad.

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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