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

Friday, July 25, 2014

CRPD: Words We Use Really Matter

There is no doubt that those of us who support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) are fired up. Next Tuesday, July 29th (my birthday) at 12:15 p.m. at 3rd Street NW between Pennsylvania Ave NW and Maryland Ave SW in D.C., just a few blocks from the Capitol, a march and rally will start. If you want to RSVP for it go to

I have been following what is being said about what's going on. Messaging is important. Two aspects that are particularly significant are statements that talk about the adverse consequences of the CRPD or statements about how Republican Senators will act. Today one example, stands out -- Daily Caller: Homeschoolers Confident They Can Sink Disability Convention,  by Blake Neff

Blake Neff interviewed Will Estrada, Director of Federal Relations for the Home School Legal defense Fund. One quote from Will Estrada is this -- "We are concerned that activist judges could use this to, somewhere down the road, restrict parents from being able to homeschool". At another point Blake Neff  says that Will Estrada said that "he did not doubt the honesty or good intentions of those supporters, but it was necessary to look beyond the short term to what might happen many years after ratification." Estrada also said to Neff, "It's just a matter of time before this treaty is used by activists to roll back freedom we enjoy as Americans... A liberal, internationalist judge could run with this."

Will Estrada is ignoring the non-self-executing clause that is in the CRPD resolution that would PREVENT anyone, a judge or anyone else, from using treaty text to make the case for something.  Now, AND IN THE FUTURE, anyone could use ONLY U.S. law to make their case. Many people do not know or understand what the facts and implications are that will impact future events. They take comments by Will Estrada at face value and are scared.

Later in the article Blake quotes Estrada saying -- "enough Republicans will tow the line to halt ratification". That is an interesting phrase. It suggests that Republicans cannot think for themselves, or worse, that they are controlled by one constituency, home schoolers. At this point all Senators are aware of the broad and diverse support for ratification and the wide range of benefits that will result if the treaty were ratified.

The question I would like to put to Republican Senators who have not yet publicly stated where they stand on ratification of the CRPD is this:

Knowing what you know about how government works and the rule of law, would you vote against something because a small number of your constituents fear its unfounded future effects? I hope not.

Thank you.

Common Grounder

Thursday, July 24, 2014

CRPD: Media Coverage Is Picking Up

Gabby Brown with New Partners, which is doing work for the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, compiled a great list of media clips today. I thought I would pass them on to you.


Associated Press: Dole, vets groups renew push for disability treaty
July 23, 2014

New York Times: Dole, Slumped but Sharp, Returns to Senate to Push Disabilities Treaty
By Jeremy W. Peters
July 23, 2014

Roll Call: Bob Dole, Veterans Groups Push Disabilities Treaty
By Humberto Sanchez
July 23, 2014

CNN: Dole back on Hill to try and push through U.N. disabilities treaty
By Jessica McHugh
July 23, 2014

Los Angeles Times: Bob Dole returns to Capitol, takes on GOP critics of disability treaty
By Michael A. Memoli
July 23, 2014

Washington Post: IBM’s vision for accessibility: technology that adapts to user in real-time
By Mohana Ravindranath
July 23, 2014

Navy Times: Sen. Harkin: Recruit the disabled for non-combat jobs
By Leo Shane III
July 23, 2014

Daily Beast: Bob Dole Says Rob Portman Won’t Support Disabilities Treaty Because He Supports Gay Marriage
By Ben Jacobs
July 23, 2014

Christian Post: UN Treaty Sparks Fight Between Homeschoolers, Former Republican Presidential Candidate
By Morgan Lee
July 23, 2014

KSHB (Kansas): Fmr. Sen. Bob Dole returns to Capitol Hill
By Kat Boutwell
July 23, 2014

KVOA (Arizona): News 2 Tucson at 5pm (VIDEO)
July 23, 2014

KSNT (Kansas): KSNT 27 Kansas First News (VIDEO)
July 24, 2014

KCRA-SAC (California): KCRA 3 Reports @ 5pm (VIDEO)
July 23, 2014

KHAS (Nebraska): Off-Air (VIDEO)
July 23, 2014

KTKA (Kansas): KTKA 49 Kansas First News (VIDEO)
July 23, 2014

KTVB (Idaho): News at Four (VIDEO)
July 23, 2014

WTXL (Florida): ABC 27 News at 6:00 (VIDEO)
July 23, 2014

WTVA (Mississippit): WTVA News at Five (VIDEO)
July 23, 2014

WTIC-HFD (Connecticut): Fox CT News at 4 (VIDEO)
July 23, 2014

WIS-COL (South Carolina): WIS News 10 at 4PM (VIDEO)
July 23, 2014

KHOG (Arkansas): 40/29 News Sunrise (VIDEO)
July 23, 2014


MSNBC (Maddow Blog): Disabilities treaty gets a second chance
By Steve Benen
July 23, 2014

Esquire (Politics Blog): Another Chance to Be Human
By Charles P. Pierce
July 23, 2014

NewsWorks (Blog): Who could possibly oppose a pact aiding the disabled? Take a guess
By Dick Polman
July 23, 2014

We Can Do This If We Try (Blog): The CRPD and Michael Farris
By Patricia Morrissey
July 23, 2014


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The CRPD and Michael Farris

Today in the Federalist Michael Farris, Founder of the Home School Legal Defense Fund, has an opinion piece -- What I Wish Bob Dole Understood about UN Treaties

He frames his arguments on two fundamental principles of international law. They may well be, but the logic he applies in his piece is tangled.

The first principle is -- "rules must be kept". That means, if you sign and ratify a treaty, you agree with it. The second principle is -- "equality of nations".  Michael Farris says this means, "Every nation decides for itself whether to enter into any international commitment." How else could it be?

Michael Farris then makes these points:

U.S. ratification means that the United States is committing itself to adhere to the treaty... U.S. ratification does not have any direct effect on the law in any other nation.... The idea that our ratification will not cause legal changes in the United States but will result in real changes in other nations manages to violate both of the most fundamental principles of international law.

Huh? Whether U.S. action has "any direct effect" on another nation depends on when and where you look. Right now other nations are watching what we do about the CRPD and wondering why we are stalling on ratification. Words matter. Actions matter more. If we ratify the CRPD they will include us, reach out to us, and consider us when they make or revise policies and implement them. If we don't, you better believe they will be less likely to include us, reach out to us, and consider us when how persons with disabilities are treated is the issue. What Michael Farris sets aside so quickly is that we are all in this together, so we better join hands.

With regard to impact on our laws -- multiple federal agencies did a legal analysis of our laws and said we are in good shape and need no new laws in order to comply with the CRPD. This analysis did not say we will NEVER need to enact another law with regard to persons with disabilities.

Then he makes these observations about some of the reservations, understandings, and declarations (RUDs) the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted on and passed yesterday. I'll have to take his word for it, because I have not seen the text yet.

First, there is the non-self-executing declaration. This only means Congress has the duty to pass legislation to implement the treaty rather than allowing courts to directly enforce its provisions. This does not change our legal duty to comply; it only changes the agency in charge of enforcing compliance.

I must be honest. I don't understand this point. We need no new laws to comply with the CRPD. As I understand "non-self-executing", which is a condition in other treaties the U.S. has ratified, a person cannot use text in a treaty to take a matter to court. The person can only use U.S. law to do that.

Second, there is the federalism declaration. All this means is that legislative authority on disability issues will not change merely because of the ratification. This declaration does not relieve our nation from its duty to comply. And, in any event, the power of Congress to legislate under the General Welfare Clause is essentially unlimited, as the Supreme Court confirmed in the Affordable Care Act litigation. Congress will have all of the power it needs to implement the treaty.

I must be honest. I don't understand this point either. As other nations that have ratified the CRPD have done, we will include text in the resolution on the CRPD that describes HOW we will comply. If the text on federalism that was accepted yesterday is not strong enough or clear enough, then why not offer an amendment on the Senate floor to improve it? Curtis Bradley, a conservative legal scholar, has already provided testimony to do that.

Next Michael Farris brings up the case of the Romeike family, a German family who emigrated here, so they could home school their children. Although the family faced multiple legal challenges in their efforts to remain here, Michael Farris fails to point out, the family is able to REMAIN here idefinitely. All legal challenges are over. So, the U.S. system WORKED. Again, if there is objection to the parents' rights/best interests of the child declaration accepted yesterday in committee, then offer an amendment on the Senate floor to improve it.

The CRPD means something. The U.S. if it decides to ratify the CRPD, as other countries have done, has the right to say HOW not IF it will comply with it. Michael Farris fails to acknowledge that distinction.

Thank you.
Patricia Morrissey
Ph.D. in special education from the Pennsylvania State University

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CRPD RATIFICATION: Honesty Is the Best Policy

When 38 Senators voted against ratification of the Convention on Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in December 2012, they suffered no adverse consequences attributable to that vote. So, I think that Senators leaning in that direction now feel safe.

Historically, when a treaty fails to be ratified the first time out, it seldom is dusted off and brought up again. So, unless Majority Leader Reid knows he has the votes for passage, he is not going to bring the CRPD to the Senate floor this month or any other time this year.

Given these stark facts, painfully honest facts, I have three suggestions.

First, the Noah's Ark strategy. Two-by-two go have a quiet conversation with a real live Senator away from his/her office. One of the pair should be an advocate for the CRPD and the other should be a homeschooler or a priest. Make your points and hash things out. If no common ground emerges at least you tried.

Second, some of us have more clout than others strategy. Many Senators who have concerns about the CRPD may feel more comfortable talking to veterans, because they are more likely to support the Senator in the next election, in large numbers. Or, these Senators may feel more receptive to business leaders because these leaders will help in future fund raising campaigns. If you are a veteran or a business leader go talk to your Senator and ask him/her to support ratification. At the very least the Senator will make a mental calculation about votes and/or money during the course of your conversation.

Third, tweet the mainstream media strategy. Ask the people you spend time with -- such as Wolf Blitzer, Jon Stewart, Fareed Zakaria, Candy Crowley, Margaret Warner, Judy Woodruff, Gwen Ifill, Brian Williams, and the folks at Politico, the Huff Post, the Daily Beast, Roll Call, the Hill, and others to cover the ratification of the CRPD.

Time is short. Our options are limited.

Thank you.
Common Grounder
New book: A Moral Imperative:  U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

CRPD Successfully Reported Out of Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The vote was 12-6 in favor of the Convention on the a Rights of Persons with Disabilities(CRPD). I want to thank Senator Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and all other Senators, especially Senator Harkin, for helping getting us one step closer to ratification.

Here is Senator Menendez' press release --

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes the Disabilities Treaty

Washington, DC –U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement after the Committee passed the Disabilities Treaty by a vote of 12 to 6.
“One hundred forty six nations and the European Union have ratified the Disabilities Treaty, but it will require American leadership to ensure the treaty’s protections become a reality. The treaty embodies the highest of American standards. From the U.S. Constitution, it borrows principles of equality and the protection of minorities. From the Declaration of Independence, it reflects the unalienable right to pursue happiness. From the Americans with Disabilities Act and other landmark accessibility laws, the treaty enshrines the concept of reasonable accommodation. When we lead, the world follows, and only the United States can show the way in raising worldwide accessibility to the American standard. The Disabilities Treaty is essential to improving the lives of over 1 billion people around the globe with disabilities, as well as the 58 million Americans with disabilities right here at home, including 5.5 million disabled American veterans. This treaty should be ratified and I will continue to work with Democrats and Republicans to achieve this worthwhile and meaningful goal.”
Our job now is two-fold. First, urge Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, to put the CRPD ON THE SENATE CALENDAR FOR NEXT WEEK. His number in D.C. is tel:202-224-3542. His number in Reno, Nevada is tel:775-686-5750.
Second, our job is to contact our Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, and ask them to vote "yes" on the CRPD. Contacts made by veterans, business leaders, CEOs of organizations, friends and family members of Senators from MO, AR, NC, GA, MS, IN, AZ, ND, OH, and NE will be especially valuable.
My heart is full of thanks to all of you who helped us get this far. Please do all you can in the next few days to make ratification of the CRPD a reality. The world is watching. We can show them once and for all what we are made of and what we stand for -- equality, freedom, opportunity and access for people with disabilities.
Thank you.
New book:  A Moral Imperative:  U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

Monday, July 21, 2014

CRPD and Room S-116 in the Capitol

I have never been in S-116 of the Capitol. I tried to find its seating capacity, but had no luck. Given what it is used for, I sense that it has limited seating capacity. Here's what the Senate Foreign Relations Committee website has to say about it --

These rooms, S–116 and S–117, were first occupied around 1859 with the completion of the new Senate wing of the Capitol. Until their assignment to the Foreign Relations Committee, the rooms housed a variety of tenants. Former occupants, whose names are reflective of the concerns of a growing nation, included the committees on Retrenchment, Patents, Agriculture, Immigration, Territories, Female Suffrage, and Naval Affairs. At the turn of the century, S–116 even served as the Senate’s post office.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee uses these rooms to receive visiting dignitaries and to conduct national security briefings and hearings in executive session. The rooms have hosted American presidents, heads of foreign nations, secretaries of state and defense, ambassadors, and others who have informed and advised the committee in its fulfillment of the Senate’s constitutional role in foreign policy.
The question nagging me is -- "Why was this room picked by Chairman Menendez for the mark up of the resolution on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)"? It is important now for us to know what members of the Committee are saying to each other about the CRPD. It is important for us to hear about existing objections and attempts to resolve them. It is important for us to have a sense of how strongly and passionately objections are held. We need all of this to guide us as we approach Senators about their floor vote. None of this contextual information will be ours to weigh if we can't get in the room. A report on the CRPD will not have such information.
We have been encouraged to come to the Capitol tomorrow at 10 am even if we can't get into S-116, although there are hints that some might get in S-116. Some have said we need to be a physical presence.   We are more than visual aids. We are entitled in large numbers to watch and ponder how the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations debates and constructs a CRPD resolution "live". The fact that that is not likely to happen is very regrettable and does not send a welcoming message to those who have worked so long and hard to make the case for ratification of the CRPD.

Thank you.
Common Grounder
New book, A Moral Imperative: U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

CRPD Committee Mark Up Is Closed to the Public

News flash. I thought we would be able to attend the mark upon the resolution on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in S-116 of the Capitol at 10 AM tomorrow. I coordinated with two friends for a ride and to push my wheelchair. I was very excited.

The Chairman of the Senate Foreign a Relations Committee, Robert Menendez (NJ), picked a room right off the Senate floor. My sources said these rooms are not open to the public. In December 2012, Chairman Menendez held the last mark up on a CRPD resolution in the committee room in Dirksen. His opting for S-116 this time is beyond disappointing.

We are being urged to be a strong presence in the Capitol building tomorrow, indicating we support the mark up and urge a Senate floor vote as soon as possible.

Thank you.
Pat Morrissey
New book --

Sunday, July 20, 2014

CRPD and Patriot Voices

Three days ago Senator Santorum sent a tweet ( urging the rejection of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and a link to some talking points on the Patriot Voices website.

Those talking points don't take into account some indisputable facts. According to Wikipedia the U.S. was a partner in 100 treaties between 1776 and 1949. I counted them. Since 1950 we have been a partner in 72. Not once has the U.N. or any other international body told us how to do something, changed how we govern ourselves, or used force against us in our country because they didn't like how we were complying with a treaty. It is incredulous that Senator Santorum believes this will happen if the Senate ratifies the CRPD.

Well, he might say, "there's always a first time, once something is on the books."

Not likely. He ignores the recent Supreme Court decision in Bond vs. the U.S. He is silent on the legally binding reservations, understandings, and declarations which will accompany the CRPD, one of which will explicitly address parents' rights. Why?

Only he knows. He is a smart man. He has aspirations to become a national leader. One of his priorities is to promote U.S. manufacturing. Another is to restore economic freedom and opportunity for all Americans. Few of us find fault with these. But, if he wants to be taken seriously by a broad range of us, he needs to stop saying things that scare some people and leave the rest of us shaking our heads in disbelief.

According to the Patriot Voices website 21,000 plus people have signed a petition asking the Senate to reject ratification of the CRPD. We must counter this petition with calls to Senators urging ratification. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the CRPD on July 22, 2014 at 10 AM in S-116 of the Capitol. After that, all Senators will vote on ratification of the CRPD the week of July 28th.

Clear-headedness is with us. The facts are with us. Joining 147 other countries in ratifying the CRPD is a smart move, the right move.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

New Kindle book --  A Moral Imperative:  U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Book link:

If you are interested in supporting the ratification of the disability rights treaty, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, also check out:
Twitter: @AuntPip