Thursday, February 13, 2014

Senator Flake and the CRPD

In some corners of the Senate, bipartisanship is alive and well. On February 10, 2014 Senator Jeff Flake and Senator Patrick Leahy wrote an opinion piece in, "Time for a New Cuba Policy". Both senators are on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy, from Vermont, is the Democrat Chairman of the Committee. Flake is a Republican from Arizona. The opinion piece is clear, factual, and certainly forward thinking. Flake is also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is my hope Senator Flake will find colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with whom he can work, ideally Senator Menendez, the Chairman, and his Republican colleagues (Barrasso and McCain) on the Committee who support the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and offer to be the Republican lead in negotiations. If that would happen, it is more likely that we would get to a bipartisan package on reservations, understandings, and declarations on the CRPD more quickly.

There are parallels between what Senator Flake and Senator Leahy are suggesting in their opinion piece and what we hope to achieve with ratification of the CRPD. They urge opening up travel opportunities between the U.S. and Cuba. They urge the removal of restrictions on businesses. They reference the importance of bilateral exchanges on issues. These topics have relevance for us if we were to ratify the CRPD. If the Obama administration would endorse and implement their suggestions with regard to the policy on Cuba and we were to ratify the CRPD, tourist trade that includes people with disabilities would increase between the U.S. and Cuba. Businesses that market assistive technology would have new marketing opportunities in Cuba. The principles of freedom, equal opportunity, and accessibility for people with disabilities could be discussed between the two governments and civil society, and perhaps influence Cuba's position on human rights in general.

I suspect no one raised the connection between a new Cuba policy and the CRPD with Senator Flake when he and Senator Leahy were drafting their opinion piece on Cuba. Now that I have put these connections in this post I hope that Senator Flake will consider them, use his considerable skills and strong interest in international harmony, and help us secure, in a bipartisan manner, ratification of the CRPD. We need more Republican champions. We need a Republican to lead the Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee back to the negotiating table. Senator Flake may be that man.

Please join me in urging him to take the job.

Here is his contact information:
His telephone numbers -
In D.C.: 202.224.4521
In Phoenix: 602-840-1891
In Tucson: 520-575-8633

His Twitter name is @JeffFlake

If you want to schedule a meeting contact

If you want to visit his website: From this site you send him a message when you click on "Contact Jeff".

Thank you.

Common Grounder

Monday, February 10, 2014

CRPD Ratification: We Don't Need Perfect, Just Progress

Having read the papers this morning, I learned that the House breaks Thursday so the Democrats can have their annual retreat (Republicans had theirs a few weeks ago.). Then both Senators and House Representatives go home and don't come back to Washington, D.C. until February 26th. According to the Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, the government loses its authority (i.e., flexibility to shift money around and pay bills) to spend money on February 27th. With every day that passes more and more time will be spent on the fall mid-term elections. The statistics look very good for the Republicans to retain the House and to make gains, and perhaps, take over leadership in the Senate. 

These seemingly random facts make a point. There will never be the right or perfect time to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  We have been told that substantial efforts have been made to develop a fully bipartisan resolution on the CRPD. They have not succeeded to date. There will always be competition for political space. Those who support the CRPD outnumber those who oppose the CRPD in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So why not proceed to a mark up with a known majority? We need progress. It will help us sustain momentum and grow it.

Contact Senator Menendez (202.224.4744; Twitter: @Senator Menendez). Ask about the status of ratification negotiations and suggest that he proceed to a mark up.

Thank you.
Common Grounder