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Senate Fails to Pass UN Disabilities Treaty

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Former Republican Senator Bob Dole, of Kansas, was wheeled onto the Senate floor in a wheelchair Tuesday to make a last minute appeal for Senators to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

But Dole’s appearance, just six days after he was released from the hospital, did not sway some Republicans -- the treaty failed by a vote of 61-38, falling five votes short of the super majority needed for passage.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would declare that all citizens, regardless of ability, deserve to live in dignity, safety and equality under the law, and if it had been voted through would have added the U.S. as a party to the Convention.

The Convention would not create or change any new rights that don’t exist domestically in the U.S. already.  It would encourage other countries to model their treatment of disabled people around the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, spearheaded by Republican Sen. Bob Dole and signed into law by President George H. W Bush.

The issue came under extreme opposition from some conservatives, providing a highly-charged and at-times emotional debate, pitting some Republicans against those in their own party. Opponents, led by Tea Party Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah., argued that the international standards could erode U.S. sovereignty and should not be addressed during a lame duck session of Congress.

Lee charged that the treaty would threaten the rights of parents in the United States to “determine the best education, treatment and care for their disabled children.”

“I simply cannot support a treaty that threatens the right of parents to raise their children with the constant looming threat of state interference,” Lee said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Proponents of the treaty dismissed those concerns.

“We're facing an entirely fictitious set of arguments on abortion, on home schooling, on lame-duck sessions; all of their arguments have been contradicted by the facts and the law,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said. “How is it possible that a treaty that according to our Supreme Court offers no recourse, no change in American law, no access to American courts, how is it possible that such a treaty could threaten anybody in our country? The answer is simple, it doesn't, and it can't.”

The treaty would create a committee that can issue non-binding recommendations and suggestions.  It would not have the power to change laws or take any action in the U.S., as was argued by some Republicans.  

Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., split with his fellow Arizona Republican Senator McCain and said he opposed the treaty because it could be used as a “cover” for countries that do not uphold rights.

“I don't believe that we need to ratify an international convention to demonstrate our firm commitment in this area,” Kyl said Tuesday on the floor of the Senate, “just as with many treaties before this one, the CRPD would offer cover to regimes that have no intention of actually helping their citizens, while needlessly tying the hands of countries like the united states that have actually made great strides in this area.”

Eight Senate Republicans broke ranks with their party and voted for the treaty.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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