Don’t Let the Language Fool You: Here’s Why Conservatives Are Still Voicing Opposition to a UN Treaty for the ‘Rights of Persons with Disabilities’

Who wouldn’t support a treaty with the language in its title that says it is for “Rights of Persons with Disabilities”? Turns out many Republicans oppose the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and their reasons are worth taking a look at again, even if the arguments are not necessarily new.

The Senate discussed the U.N.’s CRPD, which was completed in 2006, last week. Republicans held to their objection for taking up an international treaty during a lame-duck session of Congress, but debate for it will be on the floor Tuesday.

As Betsy Woodruff for National Review put it, just because some voted against the treaty “[doesn’t] necessarily [mean they] hate disabled people.” In fact, they might be seeking out their best interest.

Former GOP presidential candidate and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) (L) speaks abou his opposition to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during a news conference with his wife Karen Santorum as she holds their daughter, Isabella, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill November 26. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As former senator and 2012 candidate for the Republican presidential nomination Rick Santorum wrote in a contributors post for TheBlaze earlier this year, on the surface the treaty might appear in the best interest of those with disabilities, but there are provisions that he wrote “should concern all Americans.” He continued to voice his concern over the treaty, calling into the Glenn Beck Radio Program Monday morning. On the show, he called some other senator’s reasoning for support of the treaty a “big joke.”

Some supporters have said that since the treaty was modeled after the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, it would require no changes in U.S. law. As Steve Benen on Rachel Maddow’s Blog interpreted it: “we don’t actually have to do anything except say we like the treaty — and then wait for other signatories around the world to catch up to the United States’ laws.”

Not so according to opponents like Santorum, who has a special-needs child himself. Many Republicans have voiced concern over provisions like that the U.S. would need to answer to a U.N. committee to show that it was in compliance. On Beck’s show Santorum noted that supporters have countered this concern saying they would ignore this part.

“If we are going to ignore it, why pass it,” Santorum said.

Listen to Santorum on Beck’s show this morning:

Here are more details concerning Republicans that Santorum wanted to bring to light in his July post:

If ratified, CRPD would become the law of the land under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, and would trump state laws, and could be used as precedent by state and federal judges. Since it is a treaty, the Constitution requires that it must be ratified by two-thirds of the United States Senate.

There are two very troubling provisions in this treaty. The first spreads the identical standard for the control of children with disabilities as is contained in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. This means that the Federal government, acting under U.N. directions, can determine for all children with disabilities what is best for them. The second, the education provision of CRPD does not support the parental rights rules of past U.N. human rights treaties. Omission of these rules would potentially eradicate parental rights for the education of children with disabilities.


What’s so problematic here is that the provisions of this treaty could open the door for a professional or government official to override the decision that we as parents need to make for our special-needs children.

Susan Rice, center, U.S. ambassador to the UN, signs the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Thursday, July 30, 2009 at United Nations headquarters. Although signed, the U.S. has not ratified it. (Photo: AP/Mary Altaffer)

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., argued that support for the treaty would take the the “gold standard” of the Americans with Disabilities Act “to countries that have never heard of disability rights.” He said that it would benefit disabled American veterans who want to travel or work abroad. Woodruff in National Review though reported Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation calling this premise “completely unsupportable.”

“The notion that it might improve travel conditions for Americans traveling abroad is a complete non sequitur, and it has nothing to do with the treaty at all,” Groves said, according to Woodruff.

On Beck’s show, Santorum encouraged those citizens wanting to voice opposition to call their senators. A call by TheBlaze made to the Capital’s switchboard revealed a busy signal Monday morning. Could this have been due to callers overwhelming line in calls to senators regarding the treaty?

Here’s another clip from Beck’s morning program discussing the treaty:

The Senate will continue the debate Tuesday, Dec. 2. In September, 36 Republican senators opposed taking action on international treaties during the post-election session. We’ll have to see if it holds.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.