Sen. Mike Lee criticized for opposing U.N. disability treaty

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SALT LAKE CITY — Republican senators joined freshman Sen. Mike Lee Tuesday to voice opposition on a United Nations disability treaty. The treaty was voted down with a 61-38 vote, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty.

The treaty, which was already signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries, was an attempt for nations to ensure disabled individuals enjoy the same rights and freedoms as their fellow citizens. The treaty was similar to the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed in 1990.

Republicans opposed the treaty, saying it would pose a threat to United States national sovereignty and would take away right from parents, was a dangerous precedent for treaties and had implications on the abortion.

"America is the gold standard when it comes to protecting the right of the disabled. Today's vote doesn't change that," Sen. Lee said after the vote. "Instead, the Senate rightfully rejected a treaty that could threaten the rights of parents to determine the best education, treatment, and care for their disabled children. It also halted our possible descent down the rabbit hole of international ‘entitlement rights' — which could have serious consequences for domestic law. I applaud the Senate for preserving our sovereignty."

The United States already has the most comprehensive legislation in the world to protect the rights of Americans with disabilities.

–Sen. Mike Lee

In a letter to fellow Republican senators prior to the vote, Sen. Lee said the treaty should not be considered during a lame-duck session of Congress, but that "new representatives carrying the election mandate should be afforded the opportunity to review and consider any international agreements that are outstanding at the time of the election."

The Republicans' vote to oppose the disability treaty was criticized by Esquire's Charles P. Pierce, who wrote a scathing article about Sen. Lee and his "great victory."

"No later than tomorrow, it could be explained to Senator Lee that he has worked to embarrass his country, his institution, and his party in the eyes of the nation and the world," Pierce writes. "It could be explained to him that the U.S. Senate is not going to conform to the leaky contents of his own paranoid brainpan."

Pierce continues saying: "It could be made clear to him that, because of his reckless disregard for anything except his own bizarre theories and groundless night-terrors, he is now a non-person within the Republican caucus. If the people of Utah want to be represented by a non-person, they're welcome to him. But that shouldn't be our problem as well."

While a call to Sen. Lee's office was not returned, his blog says the treaty was a "superfluous treaty for American rights."

"The United States already has the most comprehensive legislation in the world to protect the rights of Americans with disabilities," he writes. "The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 provides a private cause of action for the disabled for instances of discrimination in employment, public accommodations, transportation, etc. This treaty does not address any actual need the United States is experiencing with regard to legislation."

Sen. Lee wrote an op-ed article in USA Today Wednesday, defending his opposition to the treaty, saying, "Supporters of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are attempting to have it both ways."

Related political news:

  • The campaigns of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both topped the $1 billion mark, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, making it the most expensive presidential election ever. The Obama campaign brought in approximately $1.123 billion, which is slightly more than Romney's $1.019 billion.
  • House Speaker John Boehner is under attack from the Republican Party after conceding to some of the issues associated with the Fiscal Cliff. As a result, a social media campaign was instituted to #FireBoehner. An article by The Atlantic poses the question about Boehner's speakership.
  • Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell attempted to call the Democrats' bluff on a vote over the Fiscal Cliff, saying they did not have enough votes to pass the proposed measures. The Democrats returned, showing support for the measure, which forced Sen. McConnell to filibuster his own bill.

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Josh Furlong


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