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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Action Alert: Senator Harkin Needs Your Help on CRPD in October!

Source: US International Council on Disabilities (USICD)

Yesterday, September 27, Senator Harkin went onto the Senate floor to ask for a vote on ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Unfortunately, he was opposed by Senator Mike Lee of Utah, and a vote was not taken.

CRPD Logo - Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesThe Senate recesses this Friday, and will return November 12th for the final session of the year. We need your help to ensure CRPD receives a vote upon the Senate’s return!

From now on, if Senators are not willing to commit to supporting the CRPD, but are not willing to state specific concerns and work to resolve them with new RUD (reservations, understandings and declarations) language, then we must count them as opposed to the treaty!

The opposition continues to generate calls, and your Senators need to hear from you throughout the recess that the community supports this issue. CALL often and spread the word. Attend town halls and candidate forums. Tell them we will not wait any longer: the time is now!

Visit to take action!

See also:

For Immediate Release: Senator Harkin (D-IA) Requests Unanimous Consent for Disability Treaty, But Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) Objects

Contact: Kevin Locke, U.S. International Council on Disabilities

[email protected], (202) 359-6960

USICD President Marca Bristo says because of a well-funded campaign of misinformation waged by the fringe opposition, some senators do not support.

Senator Tom Harkin said this afternoon from the Senate floor, “This is another sad, irresponsible day in the history of the United States Senate.” This statement came after his request for unanimous consent on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or Disability Treaty, was objected to by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), citing disproved concerns about US sovereignty.

This latest action by the right falls on the heels of the United Nations statement on September 16, that Guyana became the 150th nation to ratify the treaty. Of the 158 countries that have signed the treaty, only eight have still to ratify it. Unfortunately – and conspicuously – the United States is one of them.

President of the US International Council on Disabilities Marca Bristo said, “We are tremendously grateful to Senator Harkin for his continued fight to ratify the treaty, alongside more than 800 disability organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, businesses, veterans groups, human and civil rights groups, and faith organizations. This is the American mainstream. It is disappointing that some senators do not support it due to a well-funded campaign of misinformation waged by a fringe opposition. We are united in demanding that senators put aside politics and irrational, fear-based arguments advocated by extremists on the right.”


  1. Pamela Soucy says

    People need work program for all with physical /mental disabilities

  2. Everyone on earth wants rights for the disabled, everywhere, all the time. Unfortunately, it is the proponents of the UN CRPD who are spreading misinformation about what the UN CRPD will actually achieve, and avoiding discussion of how its ambiguous language is already being used for international mischief.

    First, this article was at best mistaken, and at worst dishonest in its portrayal of what Senator Harkin was doing. The article makes it sound like Senator Harkin was illegitimately refused a vote on the Senate floor. What actually happened was that Senator Harkin was attempting to sneak a ratification vote by asking for “unanimous consent” to vote. Examine the Senate glossary reference below. Senator Harkin was conducting an end-around designed to avoid Senate rules for bringing treaty ratification before the full Senate. Had he garnered consent, this could have included limiting debate and amendments before the vote. This was underhanded and devious. Senator Harkin knew better.

    Second, glance at the UN CRPD. Does it contain good ideas and concepts? Yes. Does it contain bad ones? Yes, and the bad ideas are very bad: That’s the problem. Contrary to what its proponents claim, the UN CRPD contains no language that guarantees any benefit whatsoever to any U.S. citizen, at home or abroad. The obligation written in this treaty is unilateral. If the U.S. were to ratify this treaty, the entire obligation would fall on the U.S. to implement both the good ideas and the bad ideas. But that is not true for the UN. In the text of the treaty, the UN grants nothing to any ratifying nation – including no actual international authority to help bring rights to the disabled.

    Third, an unelected (by the people of the U.S.) committee of 18 would be the ones telling the U.S. what to do if we ratified this treaty. This committee would be unaccountable to the people of the United States. Treaty proponents argue that the treaty has no enforcement power. That is not true: the enforcement power is indirect, but present nevertheless. Our own Constitution requires judges to enforce treaties, so the UN committee of 18 only has to interpret the treaty and evaluate the U.S.’s performance in meeting its obligations, and we have enforcement. Moreover, anything the UN CRPD lacks in enforcement, it makes up in lawlessness. The committee of 18 can change their interpretation of the treaty at any time. And if they change an interpretation, all ratifying nations are bound to comply with the re-interpretation without having to ratify the change. That is not how lawmaking is done in the United States, and it is not how lawmaking should be done anywhere in the world – ever. The United States government was structured by its founders to avoid power-grabs. The UN treaties, by design, grab power from ratifying nations. If you doubt this, look what Scotland did this year in response to the UN CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child – more below). Every newborn in Scotland will now have a government worker assigned to ensure that the child’s family upholds the rights of the child as spelled out in the UN CRC. This is family intrusion of the highest degree, and an actual stripping away of due process. Every parent in Scotland must now be monitored to continually demonstrate his or her fitness to parent. Read more here:

    Fourth, and most chilling, is how treaty proponents deceptively argue that the treaty would not require any change in U.S. law, because the laws of the U.S. are already in compliance. Not so, since the UN CRPD and its follow-on (at least in the U.S.), the CRC, both use common language that is interpreted completely differently than it is in U.S. law. The concept of “best interests of the child” in U.S. law preserves due process – a parent must be proven unfit to parent in a court of law before “best interests” kicks in. But in UN treaties, “best interests” replaces both parents’ and children’s wishes with the government’s decisions at all times, if the government deems its ideas better. Thus, since almost all family law in the U.S. is written at the state level, and since Article VI of our Constitution grants treaties the power of supreme law of the land specifically over state laws (but not federal laws), the UN CRPD would require all U.S. law to be updated to explicitly employ the “best interests” paradigm, UN style, concerning disability law for children. Then, fast forward to the CRC. It is very important to note that Scotland’s new law specifically aims to satisfy the requirements of the CRC. Once the UN-style “best interests” paradigm is in place in U.S. law via the UN CRPD, it will be impossible to argue against ratification of the very radical CRC, and Scotland will become the U.S. model for family law.

    The United States of America should never ratify any UN treaty. It will lead to nothing but intrusion and meddling in the affairs of the United States, and worse, in the affairs of the family, as regards treaties like the CRPD and the CRC. Moreover, neither the United States nor any nation leads by ratifying treaties. We lead by implementing good laws. The United States has the premier laws for disabled in the world. Do our laws need more work? Of course they do. But that work is reserved for the people of the United States, not 18 unelected, unaccountable, meddling bureaucrats in Geneva.