On Nov. 21, 2013, Room G-50 in the U.S. Senate Dirksen Building was once again overflowing with those advocating for the U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), with Secretary of State John Kerry testifying to the Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry is no stranger to the treaty, as he pushed for its ratification when he was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate.
Last week Kerry spoke on behalf of the continued effort to ratify and addressed the many concerns that are still being raised about topics such as homeschooling, the case of Bond v. United States, and the protection of American Sovereignty.
“I am still convinced that we give up nothing, but get everything in return,” he said. “Our ratification does not require a single change in American law and isn’t going to add a penny to our budget,” addressing that, “this is the single most important step to expand opportunities to over 50 million Americans with disabilities abroad.”
One particular group with disabilities that Kerry emphasized would benefit from the treaty would be American students with disabilities who wish to study abroad, who will need to be able to compete in the global economy, paving the way for the United State’s further involvement and influence internationally.
Support continues to show and not just through disability advocacy and veteran organizations but in businesses as well. Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), in his opening remarks, listed off dozens of groups, businesses and individuals in support of passage, including companies such as Coca-Cola, NASCAR, the Consumer Electronic Association, Microsoft, the Red Cross, IBM, and more! Overall, there are some 800 groups that are pressing the Senate to ratify the treaty.
Despite the support of several well-known Republicans, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), conservative groups are still attempting to counter the alliance of administration and activists, insisting that the treaty will harm American interests. Even with opposition, there are an overwhelming number of advocates who disagree with this notion, and Kerry made a note of this best when he took a moment to recognize the people present at the hearing. “This is about something real, look at the people here today, everyone represents thousands more making a difference,” Kerry said. No scheduled vote has been announced but there is no doubt much more to be discussed to make sure the CRPD will win enough votes to make it out of the Foreign Relations Committee.
As Kerry so thoroughly put, “We do make a difference!” Go to CEC’s Legislative Action Center and show your support to ratify the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities by sending a letter to your member of Congress!