Kerry to push UN disabilities treaty

Secretary of State John Kerry returns to Capitol Hill this week to continue his push for a United Nations treaty on the rights of people with disabilities.

The Senate's failure to ratify the treaty was one of Kerry's great disappointments as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations panel. Since becoming the nation's top diplomat earlier this year, the former Massachusetts senator worked with his successor, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), to bring the treaty back up for a vote.

“One of the saddest days in my public life was Dec. 4, 2012 — the afternoon when the Senate I revere fell just five votes short of approving the Disabilities Treaty,” Kerry wrote in a USA Today op-ed back in July. “When you get knocked down in defeat, you have to get back up — and today we renew our commitment to fight ... and get the job done.”

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Treaty advocates say it will extend the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act to the rest of the world without imposing new rules on the United States. The treaty has broad bipartisan support, including from Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who was sidelined during last year's vote because of a stroke.

Opponents, led by conservative home-schoolers and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), have denounced the treaty as a power grab by U.N. bureaucrats. They argue it could threaten parents' ability to homeschool their children, a charge treaty advocates say is nonsense.

Kerry is slated to testify on Thursday during the second of two hearings as Menendez's committee decides how to move the treaty again. Other scheduled witnesses include IBM's director of accessibility, former President George H.W. Bush's counsel, C. Boyden Gray, and law professors from George Mason and Duke universities.

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