Advocates bash Corker’s opposition to disability treaty

Disability advocacy groups have harshly criticized Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) for saying he wouldn’t support the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Corker is the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Last week, he announced that he wouldn’t vote to ratify the treaty if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) brings it to the Senate floor again.

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“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,” Corker said. “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.”

The Senate tried to ratify the treaty last year but failed to get the super-majority vote needed, despite former Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) pressuring his party to support the convention that would encourage other countries to adopt disability-friendly policies. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) vowed to raise the issue again and try for another vote.

Advocates say the convention is needed to ensure that Americans with disabilities traveling to other countries are afforded equal rights and accessibility.

“I am shocked and dismayed that Sen. Corker would abruptly cut off negotiations surrounding this crucial treaty and fail to support it,” said Marca Bristo, president of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities. “Doing so is a betrayal of the millions of Americans with disabilities, professionals, people of faith, and veterans who both need and want the Disability Treaty to be ratified.”

There are 1 billion people worldwide with disabilities and nearly 60 million of them are Americans. But Corker and several other Republicans have argued that ratifying U.N. treaties undermines U.S. law. 

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), one of the most vocal supporters of disability rights in the Senate, has said that GOP argument is weak because U.S. laws already comply with the treaty and wouldn’t require the United States to do anymore than it already has under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

More than 130 countries have ratified the treaty.

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) accused Corker of “stealing Christmas” and committing an “injustice” against all Americans with disabilities.