Friday, April 11, 2014

Fish and the CRPD

No, I haven't lost it. I'm just stupefied by recent Senate action. Last week the Senate ratified more than one treaty. It ratified four. They dealt with international cooperation on rules related to catching fish. That's right, fish. I guess when it comes to fish the Constitution, sovereignty, and the UN telling us what to do are not problems. These treaties passed on a voice vote. That means there was no roll call votes. If you want to read all about the details try a blog post by Hayes Brown. It is excellent and I will not duplicate it here.

Now we could look at this development in one of two ways. We could conclude that the Senate recognizes that we are part of the world community; it makes enormous sense to work together to make this planet a better place; and the UN is not the bogeyman. Or, we could conclude that money talks and unlike the U.S. fishing industry we don't have enough.

I prefer to endorse the first conclusion. That is, at least for a moment many senators are now rethinking their general opposition to UN treaties. They're willing to take a second look at the CRPD. They are willing to recognize that doing things as part of the world community is a good thing to do. They're willing to recognize that international cooperation extends to things like disability rights. They are willing to understand that much good and no harm will come from U.S. ratification of the CRPD.

Senators' recent actions related to fish give us an opportunity to say, "We are aware of your recent voice votes on the FOUR fish treaties. Are you ready to give us a voice vote on the CRPD?  We hope so." You know, there is only two things elected officials dislike as much as bad press -- being seen as inconsistent and unresponsive to constituents.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Monday, April 7, 2014

Senator Santorum and the CRPD

Senator Santorum opposes ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. His latest comments, an opinion piece in Town Hall, today -- What the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Conceals  – expands his previous arguments related to parents’ rights, but makes no new or convincing points. I am excited. This is my 60th post on the CRPD. The fact that Senator Santorum is sharing his version of reality with us, once again, must mean that those of us who support ratification are gaining in momentum, otherwise, Senator Santorum and the rest of the opposition would have stayed under the radar. I have countered all the points Senator Santorum makes in his piece in my earlier blog posts. Nonetheless I thought it would make sense to set up a point-counterpoint framework for everyone on a few points Senator Santorum makes.


SS. Embracing the United Nations’ “it takes a village” mentality, CRPD would empower the federal government to run roughshod over existing laws that protect parents’ and children’s rights….

The treaty’s supporters tell us that CRPD simply mirrors the Americans with Disabilities Act. Don’t buy that. The ADA is very specific and limited in its scope. Anyone who actually reads the CRPD will see that it is a blunt instrument.

CG. The ratification package the President sent to the Senate includes three reservations. One of the reservations deals with federalism, the division of authority between the federal and state governments. It references the ADA as our means of complying with the CRPD.

Federalism. To the extent that state and local governments exercise jurisdiction over issues covered by the convention, U.S. obligations under the convention are limited to the U.S. government taking measures appropriate to the federal system, such as enforcement under the ADA, with the ultimate objective of full implementation of the convention.

So if the Senate ratifies the CRPD, state laws would not be impacted or need to be changed unless a state’s legislature decides to amend them. 

SS.  The ADA carefully defines “disability,” making the scope of the law clear. The drafters of CRPD, however, specifically rejected a clear definition of “disability,” asserting that “disability is an evolving concept.” Really? What will the U.N. consider to be a disability in the future, after we have ratified the treaty?

CG.  I was there when the drafting committee was debating whether the CRPD should define disability. It opted to leave it undefined to give countries maximum flexibility. And, in 2008 the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly voted to clarify the U.S. definition of disability. Disability is an evolving concept.

SS.  Repeatedly invoking “international cooperation,” CRPD includes a provision that seems to require member countries to help each other with funding and resources, including the “transfer of technologies.” Will the United Nations at some point decide to impose CRPD dues on Western countries to fund the treaty’s implementation? Will it tell treaty signatories that their patent laws discriminate against the disabled in poor countries and therefore must be ignored?

CG.  This is a real stretch. Many of us know that U.S. “dues” to the U.N. are substantial, but not always paid in full or on time. The CRPD won’t affect that pattern.

SS.  The ADA had three specific objects: improve the disabled community’s access to society at large, prevent discrimination against the disabled community, and meet these goals in a reasonable, cost-effective way. Most people remember the first two goals of the ADA and forget the third, but the third is important. The ADA exempted small businesses and homeowners from onerous building upgrade requirements and took a forward-looking approach to improving disability access. CRPD would remove these reasonable accommodations. And an administration that has already demonstrated its contempt for reasonable accommodations does not need another tool for imposing costly burdens on small businesses and families.

CG.  Senator Santorum says because of the CRPD, the reasonable accommodation requirements and the exemptions for small business in the ADA will be revised by "administration". He knows better. It would take an act of Congress, no simple or fast undertaking under ideal conditions.

SS.  Supporters of CRPD praise the ADA as the “gold standard” of disability laws and then cite it as a reason to adopt the CRPD. This is a non sequitur; CRPD has nothing to do with the ADA. If President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and the rest of the American left want to see our gold standard become the global standard, they can engage foreign governments directly, right now, to help them improve their laws and modernize their infrastructure. The United States is already the international leader on the protection of disability rights. We don’t need to ratify a flawed U.N. treaty to prove it.

CG.  To help other countries improve their laws and modernize their infrastructure we must ratify the CRPD. That is, if we want he United States TO REMAIN the international leader on the protection of disability rights.

The end of the point/counterpoint

Those of us who support ratification of the CRPD are not “the American left”. We reflect the entire political spectrum. We believe in the power of universal disability rights and see how it will make our shared planet a better place to live for everyone. We do not buy twisted logic, fear mongering, and speculation based on probabilities so outlandish, the only conclusion you can draw is that they are politically motivated.

Thank you.

Common Grounder