Saturday, July 26, 2014

CRPD: An Open Letter to Senate Leaders

Dear Senator Reid and Senator McConnell:

Today is the 24th birthday of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I was there 24 years ago. I drafted many Republican amendments that were adopted, as did Randy Johnson, now with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a supporter of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The ADA passed 24 years ago because Members of Congress in both parties, numerous committees of jurisdiction, and people from all walks of life and philosophical leanings came together, worked out their differences in good faith, and made it happen.

Ratification of the CRPD, an international disability treaty, ratified by over 145 nations of the 198 that belong to the U.N., shaped the CRPD. Its ratification should have sailed through the Senate. It has not. I know I need not recount its path for you. Now we are at a very critical point. Those of us who support the CRPD want a vote on its ratification next week. We see next week as the last chance in a very, very long time to secure ratification. We also want to know where each of the 100 Senators stands on ratification. That's also important information for you.

The only way the CRPD will NOT be a trigger point in the fall elections is to take it off the table. The only way to take it off the table is to ratify it now. Here are the points that make the case for this strategy:

First, the Supreme Court in Bond vs. the United States has taken the risks to our sovereignty out of the picture.

Second, anyone who can read the words in Article 25 of the CRPD can see that access to reproductive health care for people with disabilities IS NO MORE OR NO LESS than access available to persons WITHOUT disabilities. The only way that access to abortion would be expanded in this country would be if a state legislature, the U.S. Congress, or our courts decided to address it and were successful.

Third, the Supreme Court in the Bond vs. the United States also reaffirmed the balance of power between state and federal governments, so home schoolers can relax. The only body that can tamper with parents' right to homeschool is their legislature. And, given the veracity of home schoolers, that's not going to occur.

Fourth, there are votes. There are 54 million people with disabilities in this country. Some have made the suggestion that ratification of the CRPD is an "inside-the-beltway" issue. Now all Senate offices know how their constituents feel, both home schoolers and people with disabilities. For people with disabilities, who are both Democrats and Republicans, how a Senator feels about ratification has become a proxy for how persons with disabilities think Senators view the ADA and people with disabilities. There's no dialing back on these points. That may be why so many Republican Senators have not been public about their vote on the CRPD.

Fifth, there has been wild speculation about how the CRPD will be used in courts. You and I know it won't be because of the non-self-executing paragraph in the CRPD resolution. And, remember there's John Roberts heading the Supreme Court. He's as good as the German goalie in the last game of the World Cup this year.

As I see things, there are from 24 to 28 Senators waiting for a signal from leadership that a vote for ratification of the CRPD will not be used against them or weaken their standing with their base. You, Gentlemen, could give that signal and I pray to God you do.

Thank you.
Patricia Morrissey

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