Transcript: Sen. Jeff Sessions’s floor remarks against the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of statements by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) against ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the Senate floor on Dec. 4, 2012:

Mr. President, when the Senate gives its advice and consent to a treaty, it becomes the “supreme law of the land” on par with Federal statutes. This is Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution. It is in our Constitution. That is why we must take great care in ratifying treaties and doing so only if it advances U.S. interests at home or abroad.

The overwhelming majority of constituent comments my office has received have been in opposition to the convention–approximately 1,000 letters in opposition; 40 letters or so in support.

Moreover, I, along with 36 other Senators, joined a letter to the Senate leadership requesting that no treaties be brought to the floor during the lameduck session.

A treaty is a powerful document, equal to or above statutory law. Historically, treaties are to regulate the relationship between sovereign nations. They do things like settle border disputes and create trade relations between those two nations. While treaties on occasion have blurred the line between international relations, the line, the principle still remains fundamentally intact.

This Nation has never ratified a treaty of which the entire focus is to empower an international agency–here, the United Nations, an organization that truly is proving to be dysfunctional and often hostile to the most legitimate interests of the United States–to monitor the internal policies of the United States. This is particularly curious in that the United States has the world’s best record on disability issues.

We are told, let’s ratify the treaty because we already meet, at least today, all the requirements of the treaty. This will set an example. In truth, we have already set an example. We lead the world.

This treaty, however, has misdirected the focus of the United States and the world community away from nations who do little or nothing for the disabled and to direct blame first on this Nation.

Of course, the United States has a most magnificent system of law. It is the foundation of our liberty, our prosperity, and our happiness. Thus, if we were to ratify this treaty, we can be sure that international hypocrites will soon demand that the United States do this or that. All the while, their countries will have been in full violation of virtually every provision of the treaty. Many other mischievous actions will certainly arise to bedevil our country, and we will have hypocritical meddlers complicating our internal disability efforts, as well as our internal social and health policies. I do not think this is necessary.

Now, I agree that the United States and the world can do more to advance the cause of the disabled. I truly do. I recently visited the very fine Alabama School for the Deaf and Blind. I personally saw how inexpensive computers can transform the daily lives of the disabled. Deaf and blind can move from being disconnected to connected, from unemployed to highly productive. It was such a moving and positive experience to see what can be done today with the technology this world has.

When one visits our magnificent military hospital at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, one can see the devices that are used there on a regular basis to make the lives of those who have been injured better. The whole world will benefit if more of this technology is made available.

The right way to advance assistance for the disabled worldwide is to be active internationally, to be on the front lines promoting these good techniques and policies, and to use more of our existing foreign aid for this purpose rather than wasting it, as we too often do, on corrupt governments that take it and do little for their people. I believe the State Department should strengthen its outreach in this important area. I have even drafted a law that would require them to establish such a department within their agency. As we spend billions yearly on aid, surely we can be more effective in ensuring that the equipment, devices and treatments that are life transfiguring are given more emphasis by our government.

We ought to raise the level of priority we give to the disabled.

Yes, I acknowledge that such expenditures are not purely a part of our Nation’s national security policy, but America has always responded to the call to be a force for good in the world.

I just left a meeting 15 minutes ago with United Methodists from the North Alabama Conference who have a project to fight AIDS, HIV, and malaria in Africa. This is part of the American heritage, and we do this every day, and it should be done.

This is our heritage, a heritage that has proven to be a blessing to the world. We do not want to walk away from that.

Another part of our heritage is the rule of law–that clear and strong understanding of the unique quality of national sovereignty. We are honest people. We are productive people. We are lawful people. We know that we will be able to be more prosperous and thus able to help others if we protect our economy from reckless, dangerous spending and the authority of our legal system from erosion. Thus, I conclude this treaty is unnecessary and, in fact, dangerous for our Nation.

So let’s do more for the disabled worldwide. I will be supportive of that. But let’s do it without enmeshing our Nation into another binding international organization that will cause more grief than benefit.

I will conclude with one more thing.

I am coming to the view that we as a nation need to be more legally aware of the dangers of signing agreements with foreign nations that regulate internal affairs, even if we are not giving away direct powers over the United States. I do not see that is necessary. I think that is a bad step. I am opposed to that. I think that in the long run, we will have difficulties.

I thank the Presiding Officer, yield the floor, and reserve the remainder of our time for my colleagues who I know want to speak on this matter.

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