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Senate Hearing Shows Bipartisan Support for Senate Ratification of UN Disability Convention
July 13, 2012
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Momentum is growing in the Senate for ratification of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with which United States' existing strong disability laws are in conformity, and which is designed to lead to strengthening of those laws in other countries. Signed by President Obama in 2009, the Convention, which is a treaty, requires the support from two-thirds of the Senate for it to be binding on the United States. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and John McCain (R-AZ) testified in strong support for the Convention before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, with Harkin calling for ratification on July 26 to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Convention covers a broad range of cultural, social, and economic rights in addition to employment. To ensure that American laws are not superseded, the administration recommended that the Senate ratify the Convention with several reservations, understandings, and declarations (a so-called "RUD package"), which provide the following important safeguards:
A declaration that the Convention is not enforceable in U.S. courts nor does it give rise to any individually enforceable rights;
A reservation and understanding that the Convention’s prohibition of disability discrimination is consistent with and implemented through existing federal disability law; and
An understanding that the meanings of the terms “disability” and “persons with disabilities” are consistent with existing U.S. law.
Thus far, 153 countries have signed the Convention and 117 have ratified it. At this point, it is unclear whether there is sufficient time to build support for the Senate to ratify the Convention this year, but the early bipartisan backing of key Republican Senators gives it a fair chance. HR Policy Association supports the purpose of the Convention, and given the balanced approach incorporated by the RUD package, the Association will urge ratification when it is considered by the full Senate.
Senate Foreign Relations Hearing on UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Fact Sheet: Obama Administration Submits UN Disability Convention to Senate for Ratification
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