Menendez champions another vote on disability treaty

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez called today for another attempt at Senate ratification of the international agreement aimed at protecting the rights of the disabled, a vote that fell short in 2012.

Menendez, (D-NJ), said Friday that supporters of what is known as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are marshaling forces to combat what they say are spurious arguments by opponents.

Last year the vote was 61-38 in favor, six votes short of what it needed for ratification of the United Nations treaty.

“In this second hearing we’re trying to schedule proponents will be discussing the treaty itself and the importance of providing those with disabilities every opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential,” Menendez said during a conference call today.

“The opponents will be talking about red herrings.’’

Under this agreement, the U.N. would be able to review U.S. policies, but it would not have any kind of enforcement power over U.S. actions.

But Menendez said today that opponents are going to falsely claim that U.S. sovereignty will be jeopardized, or that it will mandate expanded taxpayer-funded abortion access.

“We’re trying to refocus everyone on the actual treaty and the benefits it brings to the U.S.,’’ said Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This is about breaking down undue barriers for citizens, or for citizens who need to be able to work abroad, and bolstering the causes of human rights and freedom around the world.’’

Some opponents in the Senate last year also said this measure should not have been brought up in a lame-duck session, which won’t be the case this time, Menendez said.

“I believe that is a universe that can be pursued since we’re not bringing it up in lame duck.  Efforts have been brought to bear so far, including reaching out to the business community, who are advocates for Americans with disabilities.”

Menendez said they are working across the aisle to garner the extra GOP votes they need to attain a two-thirds majority.

The measure does have some heavyweight GOP support.  In 2012, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole came to the Capitol by wheelchair and lobbied hard for its passage.

And Sen. John McCain of Arizona also backs the measure.

Menendez will chair a hearing on Tuesday, and a second one will be scheduled for a later date.

Menendez champions another vote on disability treaty