David P. Rundle: Senate should heed Dole on U.N. treaty

Before they left for vacation, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted mainly on party lines to recommend ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD). If the treaty passes procedural hurdles – which is not guaranteed, by any means – the full Senate may vote on it for the second time, the first being in late 2012.

That earlier vote failed to garner the two-thirds majority required by the Constitution. Both Kansas’ GOP senators, Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, voted “no.” Moments before they did, the two had warmly greeted former Sen. Bob Dole, who was on the Senate floor lobbying for the pact.

Divided on many other issues, the GOP is also divided on the CRPD. On one side are people such as the 91-year-old Dole, disabled in World War II and one of the authors of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). On the other are people such as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Both men were or are considered conservative stalwarts.

Dole sees the CRPD as affirming the ADA and encouraging other countries to follow our lead in securing the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. Indeed, the United States created the very notion of disability rights, and it would seem we would want to encourage other nations to follow our lead.

Santorum wrote on Townhall.com that we could do that by working one-on-one with other lands. Does he want a new branch of the State Department to achieve this? If not, what does he mean?

Also, Santorum speculates that somehow the CRPD could be used by the disabled abroad to void our patent laws, claiming they were discriminatory. It’s unclear exactly how or why they would do that. I find it hard to believe that doing so would ever enter the mind of someone who was, say, blind in Uganda.

Further, Santorum says the CRPD would be used to force private homeowners and small-business owners to modify their buildings. This has not happened in the 150 or so nations that have approved the treaty to date.

Elsewhere, Santorum has said the CRPD would give our government the right to end a person’s life if he had a disability and doing so would, in the government’s view, serve that person’s best interests. If that were so, no disability rights group would support it.

But the groups do, along with the American Legion and similar organizations. Sadly, though, the distortions of Santorum are spread across far-right media almost daily, while the truth has to fight for attention in the mainstream.

But, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. suggested, the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice. The CRPD will be ratified at some point. I hope Dole sees that happen.

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