Senate unlikely to vote on disability treaty by year’s end

sign over a doorway reading "United States Senate"
Inaction on UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

A vote on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities is unlikely to occur before the new Republican leadership takes over the Senate, dooming the treaty’s chances of passage for the foreseeable future.

“I’m telling you, I’m really dismayed,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) told the Sioux City Journal on Nov. 20. “I think it is just unforgivable that we don’t join the rest of the world when we are the leader, when the convention itself was based on the ADA, that we don’t join with the rest of the world in helping other countries change their polices, their programs, their structures to be more inclusive of people with disabilities.”

Harkin, one of the key authors of the ADA and a long-time leader on disability rights concerns, is retiring at the end of the year.

The treaty received 61 votes in the Senate in December 2012, falling short of the 67 votes needed for ratification. President Obama signed the treaty in 2009, during his first year in office.

In August 2014, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-6 in favor of the treaty, clearing the way for a full vote by the Senate. Along with all of the Committee’s Democrats, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) voted in favor of the treaty as well.