Washington • Senate Republicans refused to ratify a United Nations treaty on the rights of disabled people, with Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee calling it a win for American sovereignty.
Utah's Republican senators joined 36 of their colleagues in voting against the treaty, which they fear would lead to the United Nations dictating how U.S. parents could educate their children. The treaty fell five votes short of the two-thirds threshold it needed to pass.
"This treaty would authorize bureaucrats chosen from foreign countries to scrutinize American law, society, culture, and even the American family," Hatch said after the vote. "America must continue to lead in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, but without undermining American sovereignty."
Lee joined with former presidential candidate Rick Santorum last week to blast the idea of the United States yielding to U.N. rules. While Hatch and Lee said they favor the goals of the treaty which mirror the Americans with Disabilities Act they objected to language they said was too vague and broad.
"America is the gold standard when it comes to protecting the rights of the disabled. Today's vote doesn't change that," Lee said. "Instead, the Senate rightfully rejected a treaty that could threaten the rights of parents to determine the best education, treatment, and care for their disabled children."
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., noted that the treaty was backed by multiple veterans groups, former Sen. Bob Dole and ex-President George H.W. Bush.
"This is one of the saddest days I've seen in almost 28 years in the Senate and it needs to be a wakeup call about a broken institution that's letting down the American people," Kerry said.
"Today the dysfunction hurt veterans and the disabled and that's unacceptable," Kerry added. "It had bipartisan support, and it had the facts on its side, and yet for one ugly vote, none of that seemed to matter."
Kerry said he would bring the treaty back up for ratification later.
President Barack Obama signed the treaty in 2009 and sent it to the Senate for consideration early this year.