Senator Tom Harkin and others hoping to get the U.S. Senate to ratify an international treaty on disability rights are hoping support from veterans groups will help switch opponents into supporters.
“We’re working on it. We have some problems, but we’re going to try. I never give up,” Harkin says. “The veterans groups are really focused on this now.”
Harkin, the main sponsor of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, says the rest of the world is waiting for the U.S. to join the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“I’m not here to tell you that if we join it, it’s going to change the world overnight, but it will start us on the path,” Harkin says. “It’ll start changing things.”
In late 2012, the U.N. treaty on rights for people with disabilities failed to win ratification in the U.S. Senate, falling short by five votes. Today is the first day it’s eligible for another vote. Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights notes all the major U.S. veterans groups lined up at a news conference last week as a show of support for the treaty.
“Veterans who gave everything for the country, but now can’t get the support they need to be able to travel around the world,” Henderson said last Friday, “to be able to work overseas, to bring their families because the countries in which they’d like to work often don’t have the accommodations to allow them to do what they can do.”
Henderson and Harkin participated in a forum at Drake University last Friday to mark the 24th anniversay of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kelly Buckland, another speaker at the event, hinted there will be a big demonstration in Washington, D.C. this week to put the pressure on Senators to act.
“There’s only a few of them that are standing in the road of the United States ratifying the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and we need to convince them it’s the right thing to do for America,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do for the rest of the world and the United States needs to maintain its leadership in the rights of people with disabilities.”
While Harkin supports the treaty, Republican Chuck Grassley — Iowa’s other U.S. Senator — voted against it in 2012. Grassley’s long-time friend — former Kansas Senator Bob Dole — went to capitol hill last week to urge reluctant Republicans to support the treaty.
In December of 2012, Grassley said he had “serious concerns” the treaty could give a United Nations committee authority to criticize U.S. disability laws and “infringe on U.S. sovereignty.”