The Senate failed to ratify a United Nations treaty that many felt could usurp parents' rights after a big push Monday from conservatives to call senators and voice opposition.
Many Republican senators rejected the U.N.'s Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities treaty, which was modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act. Prior to Tuesday, a majority of Republicans had already said they would not take up the treaty during a lame-duck session.
With 38 Republicans casting "no" votes, the 61-38 vote fell five short of the two-thirds majority needed. See how each senator voted here.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) (C) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (R) participate in a news conference with persons with disabilities on Capitol Hill, December 3, in support of the treaty that was ultimately rejected by the Senate Tuesday. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
The treaty urges nations to strive to ensure that the disabled enjoy the same rights as their fellow citizens. Those opposed to it, like former Senator Rick Santorum, said it would have the potential to trump the sovereignty of U.S. law. Santorum, who has a special needs child himself, had voiced opposition several months ago from a parents' rights standpoint:
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.
Santorum called into the Glenn Beck Radio Program Monday to continue spreading his perspective before today's session.
Many pro-life groups, according to Life News, opposed the treaty as well for measures they felt could support abortion and sterilization:
Bradley Mattes, president of the International Right to Life Federation, stated, “This is a misleading measure in that it does nothing to protect life. It is disguised as a way to ‘help’ the disabled. Instead it intentionally sacrifices the most vulnerable – the disabled and the unborn – all in the name of population control.”
He continued, “Many don’t realize that this international treaty could potentially supersede future attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
The language in Article 25 of the treaty that pro-life groups oppose reads that it would provide "free or affordable health care including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based health programs.’” Life News reported Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, translating this to mean "the global community could force America to sanction sterilization or abortion for the disabled–at taxpayer expense."
Supporters said the treaty would ensure that the United States remains the world leader in promoting rights for the disabled. Among them was former Majority Leader Bob Dole, who was disabled during World War II, and Sen. John McCain, who suffered disabling injuries in Vietnam.
The 89-year-old Republican sat in a wheelchair in the well of the Senate on the GOP side of the chamber, his wife Elizabeth nearby. Dole recently had been hospitalized but came to the Senate to push for the treaty.
"It really isn't controversial," Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said in defense of the treaty. "What this treaty says is very simple. It just says that you can't discriminate against the disabled. It says that other countries have to do what we did 22 years ago when we set the example for the world and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act."
"I am frankly upset," said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., "that [Republicans] have succeeded in scaring the parents who home school their children all over this country." He said he said his office had received dozens of calls from homeschooling parents urging him to vote against the convention.
The treaty has been signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia. Supporters like Kerry said that the treaty requires no changes in U.S. law, that a committee created by the treaty to make recommendations has no power to change laws and that the treaty cannot serve as a basis for a lawsuit in U.S. courts. Opposition had voiced concern that the states would need to report to this committee to show they were in compliance with the treaty.
"I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society," said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.