Wednesday, December 05, 2012

GOP Acts Out The Terrible Two's Here Everyday But Now It's Spilling Over Into The International Arena


Senate Republicans lost the election but today they celebrate crushing the rights of the disabled

How embarrassing was it yesterday when the Senate-- where a two-thirds majority is needed to ratify a treaty-- saw Republican obstructionists take out their institutional anger by voting down a pact that codifies the rights of people with disabilities. The bill had a 61-38 majority-- but not the two-thirds needed. Every single Democrat-- even Nelson, Manchin and McCaskill-- voted for it and so did 8 Republicans willing to act like adults: Doctor John Barrasso (WY), Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), Olympia Snowe (ME), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Dick Lugar (IN) and John McCain (AZ). 6 Republicans who voted for the original Americans With Disabilities Act 22 years ago-- and all this treaty is meant to do is to have the UN use that standard for other countries-- voted against it yesterday: Miss McConnell (KY), Orrin Hatch (UT), Thad Cochran (MS), Dan Coats (IN), Chuck Grassley (IA) and Richard Shelby (AL), the last of which switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP in the interim.

Like 154 other countries, the U.S. had signed the treaty, which guarantees equal access for the disabled to employment, health care, education, physical accommodations and legal protection under international law, in 2009 but the Senate's mindless ideological pique voided that yesterday. (And keep in mind that the treaty was approved 13-6 by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which added an addendum clarifying the point that the U.S. surrenders none of its sovereignty by passing it and that the treaty would have no power to alter or overrule United States law, and any recommendations that emerge from it would not be binding on state or federal governments or in any state or federal court.)
Supporters including former Republican presidential candidate and Majority Leader Bob Dole had tried to convince senators that the treaty would prod other countries to meet U.S. standards on disabled rights and wouldn’t, as some Republican critics argued, force this country to abide by international standards.

“This treaty is not about changing America, it is about America changing the world,” said Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Dole, a World War II combat veteran who lost use of his right arm, went to the Senate floor in a wheelchair as the Senate concluded debate and voted on the treaty.
The treaty, which wouldn't have cost the U.S. any money whatsoever had widespread public backing but the die-hard obstructionists just want to see everything fail if they can't get their way. It's a very dangerous situation for the country-- and not one likely to be cleared up in 2014, when very few Republican senators are vulnerable. I suppose if Georgia and Kentucky go blue, maybe some of the others will get a clue... maybe not. Because there is no conceivable way that the Democrats are going to beat dyed-in-the-wool hard core obstructionists like Jeff Sessions (AL), Jim Risch (ID), Pat Roberts (KS), Thad Cochran (MS), Mike Johanns (NE), Jim Inhofe (OK), or Mike Enzi (WY). Voters in those actually want obstructionism and want to see government fail. This is what the NY Times editorial board had to say about the treaty vote the day before the GOP killed it:
The United States is a global leader in defending the rights of people with disabilities, thanks largely to the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, one of President George H.W. Bush’s crowning accomplishments. Now the Senate has a chance to extend the spirit of that law-- and with it, real protections for the disabled-- beyond our borders. It can vote on Tuesday to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, which declares that all citizens, regardless of ability, deserve to live in dignity, safety and equality under the law.

...[I]t would encourage other countries to bring their treatment of the disabled up to America’s gold standard, the A.D.A. That is more than enough reason to support it. A broad array of disability-rights groups say also that the treaty’s benefits for disabled Americans traveling abroad, particularly veterans, will be considerable.

Its list of defenders is long and bipartisan, including veterans- and disability-rights groups; the first President Bush; former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh; Senator John McCain; and former Senator Bob Dole, who will be attending a ceremony in Washington before the vote celebrating his advocacy for the disabled. The Senate could do him no greater honor than to ratify this treaty.

The vote is expected to be close, because of an eruption from the right-wing fringe, led by people like Rick Santorum, the former senator, who says the treaty “crushes” American sovereignty and opens the door to bureaucrats taking disabled children from their parents’ arms.

The Senate should ignore such nonsense. America is already ahead of the world on disability rights; it is time for the purveyors of paranoid politics to get out of the way, so it can continue to lead.
And just after the vote, the White House had an official response:
We are disappointed that the overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans today blocked the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which would enshrine American standards that have been developed through decades of bipartisan cooperation. Ratification would require no changes to U.S. law, as the United States already leads the world in promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. However, it would position the United States to support extending across the globe the rights that Americans already enjoy at home. This in turn would improve the lives of Americans with disabilities-- including our wounded service members-- who wish to live, work, and travel abroad. It would also allow our businesses to operate on a more level playing field and reaffirm American leadership on disability rights. For these reasons, and others, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and across the country-- as well as disability advocacy groups, wounded warriors, veterans groups and business groups-- have supported this treaty. We commend former Senator Dole and the bipartisan coalition of Senators who worked to secure the treaty resolution’s passage, including Senators Reid, Kerry, Lugar and McCain. We hope the Senate will reconsider this treaty soon in the next Congress. As President Obama declared in a written statement read in tribute to Senator Dole just before the vote, “disability rights should not stop at our nation's shores.”

Santorum won; America-- and the world-- lost. Let's all say a prayer today that the GOP nominates Santorum as their candidate in 2016. They deserve that.

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