Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission

Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission
© Kevin Dietsch for The Hill

A coalition of Democratic senators, human rights groups and theologians is calling on Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoRussia suggests military deployments to Cuba, Venezuela an option The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Winter is here for Democrats Overnight Defense & National Security — Nuclear states say no winners in global war MORE to disband the Trump administration’s new Commission on Unalienable Rights, warning it will undermine LGBTQ and women’s rights, according to NBC News.

Nearly 200 human rights groups, including the Center for Disability Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in a Tuesday letter to Pompeo that the commission’s members had a history of hostility toward such demographics.

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“The Commission’s chair and members are overwhelmingly clergy or scholars known for extreme positions opposing LGBTQI and reproductive rights, and some have taken public stances in support of indefensible human rights violations,” the letter states.

The groups said in their letter that commissioner Russell Berman, a Stanford University professor of comparative literature and German studies, dismissed outrage over last year's killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi as “another effort to get at President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE” ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

“We urge you to immediately disband this body” and “focus your personal attention on the significant challenges currently facing the protection of human rights globally,” the coalition wrote.

The commission is meant to provide advice on human rights based on U.S. founding principles and the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Pompeo said earlier this month, arguing that there is confusion over what constitutes a human right.

In a second letter, 22 Senate Democrats, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDems block Cruz's Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Differences remain between NATO, Russia Senate Democrats unveil bill sanctioning Russia over Ukraine MORE (N.J.), said the commission is based on the erroneous idea that “there is any ‘confusion’ over what human rights are."

The senators expressed concerns about the administration’s commitment to human rights, citing Trump’s praise for heads of state such as Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinRussia: Nothing less than NATO expansion ban is acceptable Biden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions US providing Ukraine with additional 0M in military aid amid tensions with Russia MORE, North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnCourt rules Warmbier family should get 0,000 in seized North Korean assets North Korea fires two more missiles, calls US sanctions a 'provocation' Biden strategy on North Korea under pressure over missile launches MORE and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

That letter was signed by several Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Schumer tees up doomed election reform vote Schumer prepares for Senate floor showdown with Manchin, Sinema White House to make 400 million N95 masks available for free MORE (I-Vt.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisMadame Tussauds unveils new Biden and Harris figures Democrats ponder Plan B strategy to circumvent voting rights filibuster Watch: Lawmakers, activists, family members call for voting rights legislation on MLK day MORE (D-Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions Democrats make final plea for voting rights ahead of filibuster showdown Apple warns antitrust legislation could expose Americans to malware MORE, (D-Minn.), Cory BookerCory BookerCNN legal analyst knocks GOP senator over remark on Biden nominee Barnes rakes in almost 0K after Johnson enters Wisconsin Senate race Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two MORE,(D-N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenLobbying world Sanders open to supporting primary challengers against Manchin and Sinema Warren dodges on whether Sinema, Manchin should be challenged in primaries MORE (D-Mass.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Former aide says she felt 'abandoned' by Democrats who advanced Garcetti nomination as ambassador to India Schumer vows to push forward with filibuster change: 'The fight is not over' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBiden addresses Coloradans after wildfires: 'Incredible courage and resolve' Equilibrium/Sustainability — Mars may start 'terraforming itself' Boulder County picks up pieces after unprecedented wind and firestorm MORE (D-Colo.).

In a third letter, more than 100 Catholic theologians expressed concern the commission will minimize the problems facing immigrants, refugees and the poor, according to NBC.

“Our faith and our commitment to the principles of democracy require us to view every person on earth as a full human being,” the theologians wrote.

When reached for comment, a State Department spokesperson pointed to an interview with Raymond Arroyo of EWTN-TV in which Pompeo said: "The U.N. Human Rights Council had sitting on it countries that you know treat women poorly, treat people different because of their faith or because of their race or because of their sexual orientation, things that we know governments ought not do. And so we want to bring it back."

"The attempt is to reground that so that the United States Department of State at very least is back to first principles on what these human rights are, and clean up that language," Pompeo added.

Updated at 2:41 p.m.