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Dole, Harkin Renew Disability Treaty Push After SCOTUS Decision

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole is making another push for ratification of the U.N. disabilities treaty.  

The Kansas Republican issued a statement late Monday saying that the Supreme Court’s decision in Bond v. United States provided a path forward for the Senate to consent to ratification of the treaty, which stalled on the floor during the 2012 lame-duck session, with an ailing Dole present on the floor.  

The breadth of the treaty power was an issue in the Bond case, which dealt with a prosecution under the implementing law for the Chemical Weapons Convention for what was ultimately a local crime.  

“Several members of the U.S. Senate wanted to delay consideration of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) until the Supreme Court had issued its decision. The Supreme Court has spoken, and it is clear that the Bond case is no impediment to the ratification of the CRPD,” Dole said this week. “In fact, the Supreme Court has given the Senate a blueprint on how to write a treaty to maintain the balance of powers between the Federal government and the states in our federalist system.”  

Dole, the decorated World War II veteran and longtime Republican leader (he was the party’s 1996 presidential nominee) has remained active on the CRPD.  

Dole’s suggestion to the Senate is to include a specific reservation about respect for state and local laws.  

“By adding the appropriate language on federalism in a reservation in the treaty, we can have a treaty that recognizes the rights of persons with disabilities, restores American leadership on disability rights, and maintains existing states’ rights and prerogatives under our Constitution,” Dole said.  

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin called for a similar move. The Iowa Democrat is a longtime advocate for disability rights.  

“The Supreme Court’s ruling in Bond has removed any possible remaining reason for hesitating to enact the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” Harkin said. “The Court’s decision clearly shows that such a treaty can be ratified, through the use of appropriate reservations, understandings, and declarations, without undermining and, in fact, preserving states’ rights.”  

There’s no word yet that the treaty could reappear on the Senate agenda, but the two Midwesterners are showing no signs of giving up. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the measure last November. Two-thirds of senators voting would be required to consent to ratification of the treaty.