Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement today after Senate Republicans voted down the "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities," an international agreement for protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities, by a vote of 61 to 38. The Treaty required 66 votes to pass or two-thirds of the Senators who were present.
"This is one of the saddest days I've seen in almost 28 years in the Senate and it needs to be a wakeup call about a broken institution that's letting down the American people," said Sen. Kerry. "We need to fix this place because what happens and doesn't happen here affects millions of lives. Today the dysfunction hurt veterans and the disabled and that's unacceptable. This treaty was supported by every veterans group in America and Bob Dole made an inspiring and courageous personal journey back to the Senate to fight for it. It had bipartisan support, and it had the facts on its side, and yet for one ugly vote, none of that seemed to matter. We won't give up on this and the Disabilities Treaty will pass because it's the right thing to do, but today I understand better than ever before why Americans have such disdain for Congress and just how much must happen to fix the Senate so we can act on the real interests of our country."
After the Committee on Foreign Relations received the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last May, Kerry held a hearing in which administration officials and advocacy group representatives voiced their strong support. He has emphasized the impact the convention would have on American service members. Testifying at the July hearing was John Lancaster, 1st LT., U.S. Marine Corps (ret.), who called it "unacceptable that many Americans with disabilities cannot leave the borders of the United States without the fear of stigma, barriers and denial of their rights" and urged passage on behalf of 21 veteran service organizations. Later that month, the resolution was amended and passed out of the Foreign Relations Committee by a bi-partisan vote of 13 to 6.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had the bipartisan backing of President George H.W. Bush and former Republican Majority leader Bob Dole, who attended today's vote with his wife, former Senator Elizabeth Dole.