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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I want to thank Senator Durbin for his determined support of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and for his request for the Senate to approve the treaty today. I appreciate the thought that he has put into the consideration of this treaty and the work he has done in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities.
It has been 22 years since the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act knocked down barriers to employment and government services here at home. Now it is time to do the same for Americans with disabilities when they travel overseas.
This is not an issue that pits Republicans against Democrats. The Foreign Relations Committee approved this treaty in a strong bipartisan vote on July 26, the 22nd anniversary of the ADA. I am deeply grateful to former Majority Leader Dole and President George Herbert Walker Bush, who have joined a bipartisan group of Senators, including Senators Lugar, Barrasso, Moran, Coons, Durbin, Harkin, and Udall in advocating for such an important cause. Senator Kennedy would be proud if he could see us coming together today in support of the Convention as we did 2 decades ago in support of the ADA.
Members from both sides of the aisle worked hard to achieve this moment. The questions have been answered. The only question that remains is whether we will be remembered for approving the Disabilities Convention and extending essential protections for the millions of Americans with disabilities, or for finding excuses to delay and defer our core responsibility as Senators.
I have heard from countless advocates on this issue--from the Perkins School for the Blind in my home State to disabled Americans and veterans groups across the country, all of whom tell me that this Convention will make a difference in their daily lives.
And, believe me, it will. This Convention will extend essential protections to disabled persons everywhere, including our disabled servicemen and women and veterans when they travel, live, study or work overseas. It will enshrine the principles of the ADA on the international level and provide us with a critical tool as we advocate for the adoption of its standards globally.
We already live up to the principles of this treaty here in America. Our strong laws--including the ADA--are more than sufficient to allow us to comply with this treaty from day one. Nothing is going to change here at home. But our delay in joining this treaty has an impact abroad.
For decades the world has looked to America as a leader on disabilities rights. It is hard to believe but some are now questioning our resolve--because of the failure to ratify this treaty. That is not acceptable and that is not what America is about.
It isn't a question of time. It is a question of priorities--a question of willpower, not capacity. This treaty reflects our highest ideals as a nation, and now is the time to act.
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