As we push for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) one of our key goals is to identify Senators who may become allies. The critical Senate floor vote probably will occur in July 2014. Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina is one of those potential allies.
Senator Burr is the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. If you watch Senator Burr speak on the Senate floor about veterans, often without notes or prepared text, you quickly discover how passionately he feels about the services they receive. He is especially frustrated with the delays that they experience in receiving these services. He is very interested in assisting families of veterans. He played a central role in getting legislation passed to address contaminated water at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.
Senator Burr is also a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. This committee sets policy through most disability legislation – the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are two examples. And, he is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, SSI, and SSDI, among other programs under the Social Security Act that affect millions of people with disabilities. In March of this year Senator Burr joined with Senator Casey of Pennsylvania and sponsored the ABLE Act, S. 313. This legislation would allow persons with disabilities to maintain disability savings accounts that could exceed $2,000 and still be eligible for Social Security benefits. The last time I checked the bill had 70 cosponsors. It has a companion bill in the House of Representatives, H. R. 647, with about 350 House cosponsors. This is a spectacular example of quick, substantial bipartisan cooperation. The Senate Finance Committee will be responsible for getting it to the Senate floor for a vote. These few facts strongly suggest that Senator Burr is someone with whom we need to develop a long-term relationship.
Senator Burr’s statements, writings, and legislative record reflect a commitment to safe environments, individual empowerment, financial stability, and the rights of people to have control over their lives. I have not found any public statements by Senator Burr that indicate an unwavering opposition to the CRPD.
Many of us are aware that on April 4th of this year the Senate passed four international treaties related to the fishing industry. There was such wide agreement that no votes were recorded by Senators’ names. We can assume that most Senators believe in international cooperation and standards with regard to protecting the American fishing industry. On the heels of these four non-contentious Senate votes, there is value in representatives from veterans’ organizations, veterans’ family organizations, and the Down Syndrome Society (which played an instrumental role in developing the ABLE Act) contacting and/or visiting with Senator Burr.
Those who make the effort to reach Senator Burr could draw parallels between the things Senator Burr wants for veterans and their families and the values the CRPD projects for people with disabilities. They could draw parallels between the things that the ABLE Act will do for people with disabilities and what the CRPD will do for people with disabilities. They could suggest that the recent Senate votes on fish treaties give them great hope that the concern over the potential impact of international treaties on sovereignty has been lessened. They could say that they see Senator Burr as a potential ally in developing reservations, understandings, and declarations in a resolution that would make the CRPD compatible with our system of government. They could urge Senator Burr to reach out to Senator Menendez and offer Burr's help in reaching a bipartisan solution.
He is a conservative, yes. He also has an impressive bipartisan record when it comes to vulnerable Americans. He may have the courage and conviction to be the next Senator to support ratification of the CRPD. He may have the intellectual prowess to suggest the wording that will get us where we need to be on a draft resolution.
Here is his contact information.
Washington, D.C.: 202.224.3154
Web site: www.burr.senate.gov