Corker, Alexander Cannot Support U.N. Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities

Friday, December 20, 2013

Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander said they cannot support Senate approval of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Senator Corker cited concerns that U.S.

ratification could undermine the constitutional balance between the state and federal governments and the legitimacy of our democratic processes. He urged the U.S. to pursue different means of advocating for the rights of the disabled throughout the world.  

Senator Corker also commended the efforts of the Obama Administration to work with him to address a range of legal concerns raised by the CRPD, but noted that he was unable to resolve his concerns through clarifying language – known as reservations, understandings, and declarations (RUDs) – that would be adopted in a resolution of ratification.


He said, “I’m very proud the United States passed the ADA in 1990, and I’m glad to have supported efforts to further strengthen it in 2008.  I’ve been deeply inspired by the people I’ve met who have helped lead these efforts.  Going forward, I hope our country will look for every appropriate opportunity to be a leader in pushing for the rights of persons with disabilities internationally. 


“I also greatly appreciate the efforts of the administration and Senator Menendez in working with us for several weeks.  However, through the process of attempting to resolve concerns about the treaty being used inappropriately to expand federal power beyond constitutional limits, I remain uncertain that even the strongest RUDs would stand the test of time, and I believe any uncertainty on this issue is not acceptable. Ultimately, I’m unable to vote for a treaty that could undermine our Constitution and the legitimacy of our democratic process as the appropriate means for making decisions about the treatment of our citizens.. 


“I’m disappointed I can’t support the treaty, but I stand ready to look at other ways to enhance ongoing U.S. efforts to improve circumstances for the disabled both at home and around the world.

Supreme Court precedent in Missouri v. Holland recognized NO limits on the federal government’s power to implement treaties.  Therefore, through ratification of a treaty, the federal government’s power can be expanded beyond the Constitution’s normal limits.  Because the CRPD deals so extensively with matters that the Constitution leaves to the states, ratifying this treaty would greatly expand federal authority into these areas, including family law.  This problem was highlighted most recently in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Bond v. U.S., where the federal government prosecuted a Pennsylvania woman for violating a federal law implementing the chemical weapons treaty. 


"The CRPD is a different type of treaty that, instead of dictating the relationship between countries, establishes international law as authority dictating how the U.S. government must treat its own people.  The CRPD seeks to establish certain “rights” for Americans, as well as what the U.S. government must do to assist persons with disabilities, reaching deep into many aspects of life including education, health care, and family law.  In the United States, the rights of Americans are governed by the Constitution, and decisions about how the government should assist those with disabilities to be full participants in our society are typically made through the democratic process."


Senator Alexander said, “The United States already is the gold standard for laws that protect the rights of those with disabilities. Because of concerns that the treaty might interfere with those domestic laws, I cannot support U.S. ratification of the treaty.”

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