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

Edited by Jenny Jiang

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

Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have participated in the hearings and debates on this treaty, and I understand the aspirations of the groups who support it. But I have serious concerns about reaching those goals through a legally binding United Nations treaty.

Other U.N. organizations have failed to achieve their stated purposes and actively work against the interests of the United States.

Not even a week ago, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to “non-member observer state” over the objections of the United States and Israel. This is a breach of the Oslo accords and will hurt the Middle East peace process. Secretary Clinton called it “unfortunate and counterproductive.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council includes notable human rights violators such as Cuba, China, and Russia. These countries have made little progress improving the rights of their citizens, and nearly 40 percent of the council’s country-specific human-rights condemnations are against Israel.

More worrisome, convention committees–such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women–have a track record of overstepping their authority and advocating positions contrary to American laws and values.

In the past, these committees have supported giving voting rights to felons, the decriminalization of prostitution, gender quotas, and increased access to abortion.

Overly broad language included in this treaty would likely allow the U.N. to meddle in many of our domestic matters. International bureaucrats working with the U.N. should not be able to influence how the United States creates and implements laws for the disabled, especially when members come from countries with lower human rights standards than our own.

The purpose of any treaty should be to advance specific security or economic interests that make us a stronger and safer nation. This treaty does neither.

Last week on the floor, Leader Reid argued that we must ratify this treaty to “take the high ground” on these issues with the rest of the world. But the United States does not have to join a U.N. convention or any other organization to give ourselves legitimacy and moral authority in the world.

For decades, the United States has been the global leader and champion for persons with disabilities. We must continue to work hard to improve the lives of disabled citizens in our country. Encouraging respect for disabled persons is important and the goals of this convention are admirable.

This convention will do nothing to improve the rights of Americans in the United States. We have little evidence to suggest that joining this convention and its committee will ensure that other countries improve their protection of disabled people. Of the 126 member countries, this convention’s committee has only issued recommendations to a handful.

Portions of this convention also concern reproductive health, the rights of families, and the use of the treaty in our courts.

Attempts were made in the committee to clarify some of these sections and protect American sovereignty, but those attempts were defeated.

These issues should be addressed by individual U.S. States and local governments, not an international bureaucracy where Americans have no elected representation.

We should never cede the authority of these matters to an international organization. President Washington’s warning in his farewell address bears repeating here. He said:

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
His words serve as a compelling argument against this treaty today.

We should be wary of international alliances and only work within them when they will strengthen America or make her safer.

I encourage my colleagues to reject this treaty and address this important issue in a format that does not endanger the sovereignty of the United States.

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