December 4, 2012 2:54PM

Senate Rejects U.N. Disabled‐​Rights Treaty. Good!

How bad is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the U.S. Senate today declined to ratify by a vote of 61 in favor and 38 opposed, short of the needed two‐​thirds? I provide some highlights in a new piece at the Daily Caller:

Libertarians, along with all those concerned with the autonomy of the institutions of private civil life, please note: under Article 4, section 1, part (e), states must “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability by any person, organization or private enterprise.” (Yes, “any.”) The employment provisions of the current federal ADA apply to employers with more than 15 employees, but Article 27 (1)(a) would seem to prescribe doing away with any such threshold; it requires states to “Prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to all matters concerning all forms of employment.”

New government spending programs going beyond anything presently in federal law? Yes, galore. For example, one provision requires ratifying states to “ensure” access to “affordable” personal mobility technologies. Another new right not embodied in present federal law: that “[p]ersons with disabilities have access to a range of in‐​home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community.” How much might all this cost? Another provision explains that with “regard to economic, social and cultural rights, each State Party undertakes to take measures to the maximum of its available resources [emphasis added] and, where needed, within the framework of international cooperation, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of these rights.” …

The convention’s mandates, often quite burdensome to private actors, roll on and on: a new right of the disabled “to have equal access to bank loans,” live “guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public,” equal access (at whose expense?) to all “information and communications technologies and systems,” a new right to “disability‐​specific sporting and recreational activities,” and, in Section 25 (e), a new right of disabled persons not to be discriminated against in the provision of life insurance. Under the existing federal ADA, terminal illnesses ordinarily count as disabilities. What does it even mean for a terminally ill person not to be discriminated against in the provision of life insurance?

How have the New York Times and Washington Post, which have both editorialized in favor of the treaty, responded to such concerns? For the most part, they haven’t; they’ve simply repeated the canned talking points of treaty advocates, as when the Post editorially asserts that the measure “would not require the United States to change its laws” (can they even have read it?) and the New York Times claims, again in bald contradiction to the convention’s own text, that its recommendations “would not be binding on state or federal governments.” As 36 Senators pointed out in a letter criticizing the treaty, the U.S. Constitution’s Article 6, Section 2 establishes treaties that receive the advice and consent of the Senate as the “supreme law of the land.”

To save face, to be sure, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted a resolution seeking to assure doubters (quoting the Times) “that the United States would surrender none of its sovereign authority by joining the convention.” And yet the treaty itself declares in its Article 46, Section 1: “Reservations incompatible with the object and purpose of the present Convention shall not be permitted.” As for the implications for state and local government, Article 4, Section 5 of the convention has this to say: “The provisions of the present Convention shall extend to all parts of federal states without any limitations or exceptions.”

Even today, the left‐​leaning Media Matters was still sticking with its talking points, its Hannah Groch‐​Begley claiming against all evidence that “U.S. law already meets the standards the treaty requests.” Perhaps enough senators actually read the 50 articles of the convention to know how far this is from the truth.