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Manchin laments failure of disabilities treaty

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin criticized Republicans in the Senate on Tuesday for failing to ratify an international treaty to protect the rights of people with disabilities around the world.

The Senate voted 61 to 38 in favor of the treaty, called the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, but it needed 66 votes to pass.

All 38 votes against the treaty came from Republicans. Eight Republicans joined Democrats and two independents in voting for the treaty. Former president George H.W. Bush and former Senate leader Robert Dole, both Republicans, also urged the Senate to approve the treaty.

"The only thing this treaty did was enable the USA to be the standard-bearer for men, women and children with disabilities and to encourage everyone to treat them with respect and dignity.  That is all this did," Manchin said.

In a phone interview after the vote, Manchin said the treaty failed because "many people think the United Nations is the bogeyman.

"I thought it was a shame to use scare tactics. This treaty is not going to let other countries dictate anything to us," he said. "We are all on the great planet earth together. You have to work with people from other countries."

The treaty, Manchin said, was designed to help make disabled people and veterans "as independent and mobile as possible.

"This treaty asks that the world community treat people with the same dignity and compassion that we treat people with disabilities here in the United States," Manchin said.

Endorsing the U.N. treaty, Manchin stressed, would take away no existing rights and create no new laws in the United States.

The treaty has support from more than 300 organizations, including 21 veterans' and military service organizations.

The U.N. convention can issue only nonbinding recommendations to countries. Those recommendations cannot be enforced, Manchin pointed out.

"I thought this treaty, using our great country as a standard bearer, was a pretty compassionate way to encourage other countries to treat their people with disabilities," Manchin said.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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