U.N. disabled-rights treaty fails in Senate

By a vote of 61 to 38 with two-thirds needed, the U.S. Senate today failed to ratify the far-reaching Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, criticized in this space before. This morning I published an article in the Daily Caller laying out some of the many bad provisions of this treaty, which the United States is very fortunate to be clear of (at least for the moment; proponents may come back next year and try to ratify it again in a slightly more favorable Senate). After the Senate vote, I added a followup at Cato at Liberty correcting persistent misinformation about the treaty that’s appeared everywhere from a New York Times editorial to a Media Matters blog post (assuming that’s really such a wide range any more).

A footnote: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which really should know better, backed the treaty, which it erroneously asserted “would not require any changes to existing law in order for the U.S. to comply with its provisions.” The Chamber’s most remarkable argument?

…ratification will help to level the playing field for U.S. businesses, which currently compete with foreign counterparts who do not have to adhere to our high standards when it comes to accommodation and accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

So it’s a misery-loves-company argument: if America is going to burden business with costly mandates, we’d better make sure competitors’ countries do so too. Not the Chamber’s finest hour. And as I explain in my Daily Caller piece, the Convention does indeed prescribe mandates that go beyond anything in the current ADA, including employment coverage for the smallest employers (now exempted from the ADA’s equivalent), requirements for “guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public,” a new right of disabled persons not to be discriminated against in the provision of life insurance, and much, much more. If U.S. companies find those sorts of new mandates unwelcome, I hope they’ll let the Chamber know.

More: Supercilious Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank doesn’t bother to engage Sen. Mike Lee’s arguments; Washington Post editorial is less supercilious but no more substantive.


  • Here’s a scenario. Mr Jones comes home and announces to his wife, “I’ve just talked to Mr Brown, and he’s convinced me we should take our children out of school X and put them in school Y.”
    Mrs Jones explains why he is wrong. Her husband then replies: “What you say is probably correct, but I’ve made a promise to Mr Brown, and I can’t go back on my word.”
    What do you think Mrs Jones’ response will be? Won’t it be something like: “Who is this Brown? You have no right making promises to outsiders about how our family will be managed.”
    Now look at another scenario. Citizens petition their government about the way the ADA is run. The government then says, “Sorry, but we have made a promise to foreigners about the way you should be governed, and we can’t go back on our word.”
    Get the picture? The government is supposed to be the servant of the people, not its master. They can sign treaties concerning the way they will treat other foreigners, but signing treaties about domestic policy and law is violation of both democracy and national sovereignty.

  • The freedom movement really needs to start a pro-free-market (as opposed to “pro-business”) group to replace Chambers of Commerce.

  • If the UN gets its way, Harrison Bergeron will seem like a how to manual.

  • […] to ratify the far-reaching Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” notes Cato Institute legal scholar Walter Olson at the world’s oldest law blog, […]

  • I do not see the protest against the treaty as a treaty.

    The problem is with ADA itself, or rather the concept that you can legislate away the entire impact of a disablement. Sorry, Ray Charles, portrait painting isn’t for you; try the piano. And has been documented well in this blog, besides extraordinary high cost per use of curb cuts and other mitigation, there are bogus disability claims, and frivolous lawsuits that make the ADA a nightmare.

  • […] reactions, besides mine, to Senate’s non-ratification of U.N. disabled-rights treaty [Hans Bader, NYT Room for Debate […]