Kerry Tries to Convince Senate that UN Treaty Won't Affect U.S. Sovereignty

Kerry said he supports tweaks proposed by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), now leader of the Heritage Foundation, last Congress to allay the concerns of parents.

“It is absolutely incumbent on the administration to agree to very difficult language that absolutely assures [members of Congress] that a treaty like this will not infringe upon federalism and other kinds of issues that are very important,” said Sen. Bob Corker, the committee’s top Republican.

Corker raised the case of Bond v. United States, currently before the  Supreme Court, in which the Chemical Weapons Convention is being used to prosecute a case against an American citizen.

Kerry said that no new legislation is necessary to implement the CRPD, meaning that Bond would not be a proper analogy.

“In the [disabilities treaty] case, the implementing language has not only been passed, it has been found constitutional by the Supreme Court and has been put in practice for years,” Kerry said. “We're talking about the ADA. That's the implementing language.”

He reiterated U.S. compliance with the treaty would result from already existing laws that were passed independently from the treaty.

Many administration officials have been making the rounds in recent weeks, insisting on the need for the pact.

“If the ADA and the protections afforded to persons here were extended internationally, then these disabled vets or other Americans with disabilities would have, again, the same horizon, unlimited horizon, that their able-bodied American counterparts would have,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said at an event hosted by Politico. Power has made several trips to the Capitol for meetings with senior lawmakers.

“On behalf of America's service members, [Defense Department] civilians, and military family members with disabilities, I urge the United States Senate to approve the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement.

One of the legacies of the past 12 years of war is that thousands of young Americans will carry physical wounds for the rest of their lives, Hagel said. “These wounded warriors deserve to have the same opportunities to live, work, and travel as every other American, and to participate fully in society whether at home or abroad,” he added.

In a move that has angered many Republicans, Senate Democrats deployed the “nuclear option” to end the minority’s ability to kill most presidential nominations by filibuster.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who supports ratification of the CRPD, told reporters after the vote he had spent an hour in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office trying to figure out a way to avert the nuclear option. He warned it would affect the ability to do other Senate business, including progress on the disabilities treaty.

“It puts a chill on the entire United States Senate,” McCain said. “It puts a chill on everything that requires bipartisanship.”