A few extreme conservative groups are forcing the GOP to block a landmark international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities.
If you want an example of how truly terrible Washington gridlock has become just go check out Albert Hunt’s reporting at Bloomberg View on how a few extreme conservative groups are working overtime to block the Senate from ratifying a landmark international treaty on rights for the disabled all over the world. Hunt explains how a once broadly bipartisan effort has been bogged down by a relatively small number of conservative activist groups:
The treaty has been ratified by 141 countries. It is backed by the White House, former President George H.W. Bush, the major U.S. disability and veterans advocacy groups, and American businesses.
Senate Republicans, however, already defeated the treaty in 2012, and it now faces an uphill slog to get the two-thirds vote needed for ratification. Right-wing critics, led by former Senator Rick Santorum, the Heritage Foundation and home-schoolers, charge that adopting it would allow global enforcers to dictate the treatment of Americans with disabilities or the permissibility of home schooling, and ease access to abortion.
If you think that’s bad, don’t worry it gets worse. The treaty, formally titled the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is actually based on America’s landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and would simply enshrine that act’s standards as a baseline for the rest of the world. And no, this can hardly be called a partisan issue or evidence of Obama’s failures to “lead” because the treaty itself was negotiated by the Bush administration and has the backing of important GOP leaning interest groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Republican elder statesmen like Bob Dole.
So why are some Republican senators rejecting a treaty based on American law with such onetime bipartisan support? Well because a treaty over migratory birds, and concerns that the UN might be trying to take over America. No I’m not making that up:
[Senator Bob] Corker says his opposition is based solely on the dangers the treaty poses to national sovereignty and the threat that it will supersede U.S. law and states’ rights. He cites a 1920 Supreme Court ruling on a migratory-bird treaty as precedent. Under the Tennessee Republican’s reasoning, the U.S. couldn’t join any treaty involving human rights, civil rights, gay rights or disability rights.
Unfortunately for Corker and his brave stand against migratory-bird tyranny Hunt goes on to quote Richard Thornburgh, George H.W. Bush’s former attorney general who says, “These reservations attached to a treaty are part of the treaty…There is nothing in this treaty that would allow what critics allege.”
This whole fiasco really shows the limits of the “both sides do it” theory of politics that seeks to lay the blame for Washington’s dysfunction on all parties’ doorsteps. After all the Democrats overwhelmingly support the treaty and there is little they can to do to advance it in the face of Republican refusal. Instead this is really just about politics inside the Republican Party itself, and particularly Republicans inability to silence extremist voices on their side of the aisle. After all, when’s the last time the Democrats held up and international treaty with broad support because of 9/11 conspiracy nonsense or anything else like that?
There is light at the end of the tunnel as 61 senators already support ratifying the treaty meaning only six hold outs would have to defect to gain ratification. But then again the GOP killed this treaty in 2012, and might do so again. At the end of the day if conservatives want a better Republican Party than this, this is the sort of fight they need to be engaging with. Otherwise kooks and cranks will continue to dominate the discussion, which looks pretty terrible to the rest of us.
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