Transcript: Sen. John McCain’s floor remarks in support of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of statement* by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in support of ratifying the U.N. Convention the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the Senate floor on Dec. 4, 2012:
*Excerpts

Mr. President, I come to the floor with a bit of a heavy heart today because I think the Senate may not act to approve the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I would say the issue is not going away. I think there are too many Americans and too many veterans organizations and too many people who are committed to this cause, that over time we may have every chance and every opportunity to succeed.

I remind my colleagues that virtually every major veterans organization in America supports the treaty, people who represent those men and women who have fought and particularly try to assist those with disabilities that are the result of combat. They are AMVETS; the Air Force Sergeants Association; Air Force Women Officers Associated; the American GI Forum; the Association of the United States Navy; the Blinded Veterans Association; Disabled American Veterans; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Jewish War Veterans; the Military Officers Association of America; the National Association of Black Veterans; the National Guard Association of the United States; the National Military Family Association; Paralyzed Veterans of America; the American Legion; Veterans for Common Sense; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Veterans of Modern Warfare; VetsFirst, a program of the United Spinal Association; Vietnam Veterans of America; and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the statement of all these veterans organizations be printed in the Record.

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

   Veterans Support the Convention as the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

   Vote YES for the CRPD in 2012! In a letter of support for the disability treaty, 21 veterans service organizations highlight why the CRPD is important to them:

   The CRPD is important to veterans and servicemembers with disabilities because it embodies the principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Like the ADA, the CRPD supports equal treatment and non-discrimination in access to rehabilitation, employment and educational opportunities. We support the principles of the ADA because it promotes empowerment of our nation’s veterans and servicemembers with disabilities by providing the opportunity to achieve independent living and inclusion into all aspects of society.

   As organizations that represent veterans and servicemembers and their families, we believe that the CRPD would remove barriers and allow American servicemembers and veterans with disabilities to work, serve, study, and live abroad. In part, barriers will be diminished due to changing attitudes around the world regarding people with disabilities. As a result of the changes occurring through the CRPD, servicemembers and veterans with disabilities will be able to continue leading active lives within the global community.

   VSOs that Support U.S. Ratification of the CRPD: AMVETS; Air Force Sergeants Association; Air Force Women Officers Associated; American GI Forum; Association of the United States Navy; Blinded Veterans Association; Disabled American Veterans; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Jewish War Veterans; Military Officers Association of America; National Association for Black Veterans; National Guard Association of the United States; National Military Family Association; Paralyzed Veterans of America; The American Legion; Veterans for Common Sense; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Veterans of Modern Warfare; VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal Association; Vietnam Veterans of America; Wounded Warrior Project.

Mr. President, I commend to my colleagues a very moving letter to the U.S. Senate from a very famous man, a Chinese dissident who was blinded, who recently was able to leave China, which was printed in the Record yesterday.

I will not quote from his whole letter. He says:

This treaty is making this idea real in significant ways around the world. Today there are over 1 billion people with disabilities, and 80 percent of them live in developing countries. Disability rights is an issue that the world cannot afford to overlook. When the United States enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act over 20 years ago, the idea of true equality for people with disabilities became a reality. Many nations have followed in America’s footsteps and are now coming together under shared principles of equality, respect and dignity for people with disabilities as entailed in the treaty.

The United States, which was instrumental in negotiating this treaty, 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. 

That is what this is all about–American leadership, American leadership in the world. I don’t know how many millions of people around the world are deprived of the same rights that Bob Dole and Tom Harkin and so many others made possible, but do I know this is an expression of American leadership throughout the world–I think an obligation America should embrace.

I would like to read a statement by our distinguished former colleague and leader, Bob Dole. More than a dear friend, Bob remains an authentic hero to millions of his countrymen, someone whose personal example of wartime sacrifice was equaled–if such a thing is possible–by his service in this body. He is respected wherever people value political courage and civility.

Bob Dole returned from World War II, one of the countless wounded warriors whose defense of our liberty curtailed his own. Gravely injured, disabled for life, he developed a unique personal understanding of his fellow Americans excluded from the mainstream. In the years that followed, Bob fought to ensure not only that no American would be relegated to the back of the bus but also, in the case of the disabled, that no one would be prevented from boarding the bus.

Bob Dole has been our leader on the issue of disabilities from the moment he stepped foot into the Chamber. To Bob, it is unthinkable that Americans could not get over a curb or enter a school building or even watch a debate in this Chamber if they were in a wheelchair.

On April 14, 1969, the same date he was injured in the hills of Italy 24 years earlier, he made his maiden speech on the topic of Americans with disabilities. In every legislative initiative since then, Bob Dole has been a leader on behalf of people with disabilities, bills such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA; the Developmental Disabilities Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He was responsible for including people with disabilities in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and for ensuring that people with disabilities are part of the State Department’s annual report on human rights around the world.

After leaving this Chamber, Bob Dole prompted the Congress to pass the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999–breakthrough legislation on health care and employment for people with disabilities.

This past year he has been instrumental in working with the administration and Congress to ensure bipartisan support for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to reflect American leadership and values and safeguarding the rights of every individual in the world.

 

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