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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, we continue, after a few hours' pause today because of the objection of one Senator by long distance. But I am very confident, with the cooperation of our colleagues, we can finish this amendment process tomorrow, and I hope we can have the cooperation of all our colleagues.

We have tried very hard to make sure every amendment gets consideration and is brought up. We have now approved well over 100 amendments, and I think most Members have had at least one amendment approved so far. So I hope we can continue the cooperation and we can finish this bill tomorrow.

I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. McCAIN. Tomorrow, a vote is scheduled on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and I would like to take a few minutes to talk about the upcoming vote.

The first thing I think we ought to understand is this is not anybody's treaty. It is not President Obama's treaty. It is not John Kerry's treaty. It is not even Bob Dole's treaty, although he certainly is the person who has been deeply involved.

The vote on the treaty is the right thing to do on its merits. It is important to note a list of veterans groups in support.

I have not forgotten that 36 Republicans signed a letter opposing consideration of any treaty during the lameduck, but there is no reason we shouldn't have a vote. The letter says they would oppose consideration, but we did have the motion to proceed. Some may be worried about passing a treaty in the lameduck session. The argument has no basis in the Constitution or Senate practice. Since the 1970s alone, the Senate has approved treaties during lameduck sessions a total of 19 times. There is nothing special or different about lameduck sessions. So I would like to address a few of the misconceptions about the treaty that I keep hearing.

It is true that the treaty establishes a committee, but that committee has exceedingly limited powers. It can review reports submitted by countries on the steps they have taken to implement the convention, and it can make nonbinding recommendations for additional steps, and that is it, nothing else. It can't require our Federal or State governments or courts to take any action. There is no threat to the United States or our sovereignty from the committee.

With respect to abortion, this is a disabilities treaty. It has nothing to do with abortion and doesn't change our law on abortion in any way. Trying to turn this into an abortion debate is wrong on substance and bad politics.

I have heard people say that ratifying the disabilities convention would take decisions out of parents' hands and let the U.N. or the Federal Government decide what is best for our children. That is just wrong. The treaty doesn't give the Federal Government or any State government new powers with regard to children with disabilities. The treaty cannot be used as a basis for a lawsuit in State or Federal court.

Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh made this crystal clear in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in every conversation that I have had with him. I wouldn't support the treaty if it were any other way.

So let's take a step back and look at how this looks if America rejects this treaty. China has joined. Russia has joined. We are the country that set the standards on rights of the disabled. We want everybody to play by international rules. We lose credibility if we turn around and refuse to participate in a treaty that merely asks other nations to live up to our standards and our rules.

We received a letter from the blind Chinese dissident Chen Cuangcheng talking about the plight of the disabled around the world and what a strong message it would send if the United States ratified this treaty. There is no reason we can't say we lived up to our obligations. We need to step up and do the right thing--for Bob Dole and our veterans throughout the world.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a copy of a letter from the internationally known blind Chinese dissident who, thank God, miraculously recently left China through the efforts of our State Department and our government.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record as follows:

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Mr. McCAIN. I will read from his letter:

When the United States enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act over twenty years ago, the idea of true equality for people with disabilities became a reality. Many nations have followed in America's footsteps and now are coming together under shared principles of equality, respect, and dignity for people with disabilities as entailed in the CRPD. The U.S.--which was instrumental in negotiating the CRPD--can continue to advance both its principles and issues of practical accessibility for its citizens and all people around the world, and by ratifying the treaty, so take its rightful place of leadership in the arena of human rights.

And he concludes:

As I continue my studies in the United States, it is a great pleasure to now learn firsthand how the U.S. developed such a comprehensive and strong system of protection for its citizens with disabilities. I am so hopeful that you will support ratification and allow others to benefit from these triumphs. Thank you for your leadership.

I couldn't say it with any more passion nor any more authority.

I yield the floor.

Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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