Wednesday, September 17, 2014

CRPD: What Doesn't the Opposition Understand?

I have been reading the tweets of the opposition to ratification today. They all thank Senator Mike Lee. Today Senator Lee blocked Senator Harkin's unanimous consent request to proceed to debate and a vote on the CRPD. The request would have allowed two hours of debate each for both sides, those for and against ratification. The Harkin request was the SAME ONE OFFERED ON DECEMBER 4, 2012 to which NO ONE OBJECTED.

Many questions are swirling in my head. If Senator Lee did not object then, why did he object today? Do Senator Lee and those who agree with him fear debate? Do they think we will stop trying? Why do they not acknowledge the changes in the CRPD that address their concerns? Why do they dismiss, ignore, or decline overtures to allow amendments to the CRPD resolution? The RIGHT remove for Senator Lee today would have been to amend Senator Harkin's request to allow for floor amendments to address perceived unresolved issues.

The foundation of the opposition has crumbled. They fear they cannot win a fair debate. Their objective is defeating ratification, rather than writing a clear resolution. It is beyond unsettling that people who think like this can win just by stalling a vote.

We must show them that the substance in the CRPD is powerful, consistent with U.S. principles, values, and laws, and will do no harm. To do that we need a debate. To do that we need a vote.

The alternative, no vote, is untenable. The U.S. was not created out of fear of what people could do to each other but out of a promise of what we could do if we worked together and recognized the rights of all.

Everyone knows I want a vote THIS WEEK. Look at all the empty time on the Senate floor today. There is time to debate a CRPD resolution. Senator Harkin's effort is not the end. We have another chance if Senator Majority Leader Reid would schedule a vote. He wants us to wait till after the elections, November 4th. He wants a guarantee of 67 votes before he schedules a vote. I bet there are enough fence sitters to get us to 67 if Senator Reid would schedule a vote between now and Friday. If enough of us suggest it to him maybe he will. His number is 202.224.3542.

If he doesn't agree with us, then read my last blog post. It outlines what we need to do between now and November 12th when the Senate returns.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

CRPD: There's Always Tomorrow

"There's always tomorrow". That was Scarlett O'Hara's mantra in the movie classic, Gone with the Wind. That seems to be where Senate Majority Leader Reid is on giving us a vote on the CRPD before the Senate closes down.

The Senate is likely to shut its doors on Friday, instead of September 23rd. Senator Reid's staff has said he is willing to hold a vote on the CRPD when the Senate returns on November 12th after the elections (November 4th), IF WE GUARANTEE HIM THAT THERE ARE THE 6 more votes in the yes column to get us to the 67 we need for ratification. Nice. A vote in September would give us the information we need to galvanize us to vote, get our friends to vote, and lay the ground work for a great future -- where elected officials focus on what is important to us.

I have several theories.

One, although for different reasons, neither Democrats (Harkin being an exception)
nor Republicans (Ayotte being an exception) are crazy about a vote on the CRPD.

Two, neither Democrats nor Republicans see any connection between a vote on the CRPD and re-election prospects and their control of the Senate.

Three, in November-December Democrats and Republicans will have new justifications for not holding a vote on the CRPD. For example, the Senate will be in from November 12 to 20, before breaking for Thanksgiving. Do you think during that time that ratifying the CRPD will even be on anyone's radar? And with Christmas looming in December, come on!

So what do we do?

One, between now and Election Day attend town hall meetings of every incumbent. Ask how he will vote on the CRPD. Ask what he will do to help get us get a vote in November. If he doesn't give specifics, ask for them. Whatever answer(s) you get should influence your vote. Whatever answer(s) you get you should broadcast on social media. On Twitter use #CRPD.

Two, contact Senator Reid's office and ask, if we are going to get a vote, on what day it will be, then broadcast what you learn in social media, even if you get a vague answer.

Three, keep calling Senate offices. Ask what the Senator's position on the CRPD is and broadcast it on social media. If the Senator is for ratification of the CRPD, ask what he plans to do to get us a vote. Broadcast what you learn on social media.

You have the ability to turn things in our favor. The folks inside the beltway (myself included) could have been smarter, faster, or more clever. Now it really is your turn. Please make the time count.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Monday, September 15, 2014

CRPD: If Senators Reid and McConnell Were Smart

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) has one thing at the top of his list – hoping/working to see that the Democrats retain control of the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY) has two – getting re-elected in November and working to secure control of the Senate. In tight races a vote on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) this month could directly affect specific races and control of the Senate. Reid and McConnell need to realize this.

First the numbers. Every two years 33/34 Senators out of 100 face re-election. This year 36 Senate races are in play, because of three special elections. The states in which Senate elections will occur are AL, AK, AR, CO, DE, GA, HI (special), ID, IL, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MA, MI, MN, MS, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NC, OK, OK (special), OR, RI, SC (special), SD, TN, TX, VA, WV, WY. (I highlighted those that are really in play.)  Currently Democrats hold 21 of these seats and Republicans hold 15 seats. It will take a six seat-shift for the Republicans to take control of the Senate. If the November 2014 election results in a 50-50 split, Democrats would retain control, because Vice President Joe Biden, the President of the Senate, could break any tie vote counts.

Democrats have a 10 Senator advantage, 55, 53 Democrats and two Independents who caucus with them (Sanders (VT) and King (ME)). Six to 12 seats are in play according to many sources. The most recent are and Republicans are estimated to hold the advantage by many sources who track polls, but shows the Democrats gaining leads in many contested races.

There 54 million people with disabilities in the U.S. Let’s assume for the sake of discussion a conservative 5.4 million know and care about the CRPD, and a measly 3 million vote this fall. Even though this estimate is modest, remember they have friends and relatives to whom they talk, who also vote. Then you have the veterans, business, and religious groups who have made CRPD a priority. So, in total we could have 5 million votes or more in play: voters, who vote for Senators, because the Senators voted for ratification of the CRPD; voters, who vote against Senators, because the Senators voted against the CRPD; AND, POTENTIAL VOTERS, WHO STAY HOME AND DON’T VOTE, IF THERE IS NO VOTE IN SEPTEMBER ON THE CRPD.

Here’s my take are where a vote in favor of the CRPD could help the incumbent:

Alaska.  Senator Mark Begich (D, AK) had things shifting in his favor till he associated his opponent with a killer, who killed two elderly people after an early release from prison. Begich's move has back-fired. The race is once again neck-in-neck. He should be urging Senator Reid for a CRPD vote to return to a more favorable footing with his voters. Disability organizations are very politically active in Alaska.

Arkansas.  Senator Mark Pryor (D, AR) is a centrist, in a dead heat with his opponent. He knows, like his father before him, that in mid-term elections like this year, the Republican base historically comes out in greater numbers than Democrat base. He should be saying to Senator Reid, “If you want to hold the Senate, you need to help me turn out my base. A vote on the CRPD would help make that happen.”

Kansas.  If Pat Roberts (R, KS) wants to keep his seat, he should want a vote on the CRPD in September. Senator Dole (former Senate Majority Leader, disabled vet, from Kansas) has urged Roberts to vote for the CRPD. Roberts has no Democrat opponent now, and his independent challenger is attracting many Democrat in addition to Independent votes. Roberts needs votes that show he has moved in the right direction on important issues like the CRPD.

Kentucky.  If Senator Rand Paul (R, KY), likely Republican presidential contender can shift to more moderate positions, as he has in recent days, Senator McConnell should welcome and push for  a vote on the CRPD in September to show he is a leader that Kentucky doesn’t want to lose. The disability and veteran communities are strong, politically active, and watching to see if McConnell has the wisdom to help get the CRPD to a vote.

Louisiana. Senator Mary Landrieu (D, LA) although safe in terms of absolute percentages, is likely to face a run off if she fails to get 50 percent in the open primary. If she were willing to speak up on the CRPD and ask Reid for a floor vote on the CRPD, that could get her the 2 to 3 percentage points she needs to get to 50 percent. In her state the disability community is savvy and inspired by leadership moves.

Mississippi. Thad Cochran (R, MI) learned through his primary the benefits of moving to the mainstream. A vote on the CRPD would help him secure his support among mainstream voters, people who care about civil rights.

North Carolina.  Senator Kay Hagan (D, NC) strongly supports the military and veterans. She should be urging Senator Reid to be holding a floor vote on the CRPD. She knows that 20+ national veterans groups actively support the CRPD and her Republican opponent is within striking distance of beating her as things are.

Those of us in the disability community want a vote on the CRPD in September. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell need to take the long view. If they want to be viewed as leaders they must be willing to make smart choices. A vote on the CRPD promises some positive outcomes for both of them in the short term and for the U.S. in the long term. Failing to join hands and hold a vote will alienate potential voters – because the Senate will demonstrate its inability to act on something that makes so much sense.

If you agree with me, please let Senators Reid and McConnell know.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Sunday, September 14, 2014

CRPD: We Need a Gang of Six

As the window starts to close for us, I think of  several  types of Senators who could help us. First are those up for election. Being an elected official is no easy job. As such a person must spend a lot of time on what is important to his or her base. For after all, the base is what got the person elected in the first place, especially in a primary situation. The general election is coming up, November 4th. In a general election, every politician relies on that all important base, but in a tight race, there is a second group -- politicians who need to attract additional voters. Third, there are  politicians who are retiring. These people need to think about legacy, having the opportunity to vote on something significant, with longstanding implications, at the end of their public service. Finally, there are elected officials, who value being viewed as being thoughtful and being problem solvers, people who breakthrough an impasse. From these four groups could come our helpers.

In these critical days in September we need a gang of six, who go public as a group, and say why they now support the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). There are Senators, who faced tight primaries, but won. There are Senators, who face tight races, as we approach November. There are Senators, who are retiring, and want to beef up their legacy. There are Senators who take pride in their ability to bring colleagues together to solve problems.

There is a gang of six out there. They know an overwhelming group of Americans from diverse segments -- disability, veterans, business, human rights, and religious organizations -- have been advocating frequently, forcefully for ratification. They know all issues have been addressed. They know federalism, sovereignty, access to reproductive health care, and parents rights to homeschool will not now or in the future be undone if the Senate were to ratify the CRPD.

These Senators need to step forward next week with courage and clarity and let America know where they stand. They need to let America know that its standing, credibility, and power to influence other nations in many areas will be enhanced through ratification of the CRPD.

If these six would step forward, we could proceed to that all important floor vote. Are you one of those six? Do you know one of those six? Now is your time to shine!

Thank you.
Common Grounder