Why Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn Voted Against That U.N. Disabilities Treaty

This week the U.S. Senate voted down a United Nations treaty that would ban discrimination against disabled people–a population that includes roughly 1 in 5 Americans. It got 61 votes, but treaties need a two-thirds majority. This treaty is actually based on U.S. law, on the Americans with Disabilities Act, which you might remember was passed by a Republican president and later expanded by another Republican president.

It was clearly stated on the Senate floor that this treaty would not change any U.S. law. Rather, it would simply require other countries to adopt the same standards. The treaty even received bipartisan support, with Republican senators John McCain and Richard Lugar weighing in on the importance of a society that doesn’t discriminate against the disabled. Of course, both senators from Texas voted against the treaty.

Wondering why, I took to the internet to find out.

Sen. Hutchison, who recently has taken reasonable stands on everything from helping Afghan women to women’s health to immigration, released a statement on her website, explaining(-ish) her reasoning. The statement consists of four sentences, and three of them sure sound like she supports the treaty:

“I have always supported the principles embodied in the Americans with Disabilities Act and I have worked to ensure we provide the very best care and assistance to our disabled veterans. The A.D.A. provides the highest standard of protections and considerations in the world to special needs populations in this country. Additional support is provided to disabled veterans through a variety of federal laws and resources. The Convention on Rights for People with Disabilities Treaty wrongly attempts to impose standards on other nations through the United Nations and might well have unintended consequences here at home.”

Okay, so she likes it — she thinks veterans need more protection, in fact — but she’s worried that the treaty might “impose” standards on other nations (presumably she’s talking about other nations that have signed the treaty), which is kind of what international agreements do. We agree not to do something. They agree not to do something. We write it up. We call it a treaty. Think of those pesky international agreements like conventions aimed at keeping terrorists from laundering money, the Geneva Convention, or anything involving maritime law.

Then she throws in that extra bit, about possible, unnamed “unintended consequences here at home.” Seems like the kind of thing you’d want to specify, since she clearly values the principles here. If she’s concerned about the questions raised by pro-lifers or homeschooling parents — concerns shared by Birthers, conspiracy theorists, and man-of-the-world Rick Santorum — she doesn’t make that clear. At all. (Probably because those are not great groups with which to be associated if you ever plan on winning another election.)

Sen. John Cornyn took a different route. He released no statement. His website makes no mention of the treaty vote at all, except to say Sen. Cornyn voted “Nay.” Same for his Facebook page. He did mention the vote on Twitter, though.

Someone asked him if he met former Sen. Bob Dole, who was on the Senate floor in his wheelchair to show support for the treaty.

Then, he waited for that great American to be wheeled out of the room and promptly voted against the treaty.


  • FuturePolitician

    Its my understanding that there was language in the treaty that could create a threat to our sovereignty. While agreeing with the sentiment is fine, our own laws should not be trumped by a treaty.

  • Daniel

    Look how low the Republican Party has sunk. Cornyn is an all-around soulless jackass, but KBH is (used to be) a grown, responsible, reasonable adult (with whom I happened to disagree on most major issues of the day) reduced to idiotically bashing the UN for a living — even where the basis for controversy is in no way apparent. They’re nothing but childish shills putting on a clown show for the ignorant, and increasingly revealing that it’s the only role they know, or remember, how to play. Sadly, it was very effective for a while, but it no longer works.

    It almost gives me pleasure to watch them continue to engineer their own implosion. Almost, but not quite. Intelligent, measured, effective legislators from the right side of the aisle would be a welcome breath of fresh air. May as well go hunting for dinosaurs, it would seem.

  • Andy G

    My guess on this, and I’m by no means any sort of political pundit or man in the know, but some people on the right are raising concerns that Obama may use the UN to pass treaties (that he would then support making it them laws) that help him fight political battles at home without going through Congress where everything is a stalemate. A world wide tax on billionaires is one being thrown out…another is a stricter emissions treaty currently working its way through the UN. While Kaye probably isn’t against a worldwide disabilities act she may more be concerned with the precedence it sets (which she pretty much said) about the UN passing laws we abide by that never work their way through our legislative process. The whole world government thing that freaks people out and such.

  • redsetgo38

    What an embarrassment both of them are for this vote..who actually has a spine to do the right thing?Neither of them..how sad…

  • Harvey Lacey

    One has to wonder if they vote the way they do because they understand the line in the sand means nothing to the waves or they haven’t learned about waves yet.

  • Edward

    This is a perfect example of how the right-wing lunatics (Santorum, Beck, Limbaugh, etc.) have dragged the Republican party into this crazy-land of conspiracy theories, UN black helicopters, end of days, etc.

    I’m not surprised at Cornyn’s vote, because after Cruz’ election he knows that the crazies are in complete control of the Texas Republican party and primaries, but I kind of thought that Hutchison would return to her senses now that she no longer has to worry about being re-elected. Unless she’s planning on running for something else (governor?).

  • Avid Reader

    This is about as newsworthy as President Obama’s budget getting voted down 99-0 in the Senate and 414-0 in the House. Obvious reasons why the UN treaty was voted down and obvious reasons why even the President’s own party voted against his proposal at the time; but what story!

  • Steve Zimmerman

    It’s not newsworthy if it makes Republicans look like lunatics, got it.

    Speaking of lunatics: Louie Gohmert fits the description. http://wapo.st/11Lgj4K

  • Jason Heid

    That’s not the truth. Both the votes you refer to were on GOP-proposed stunt amendments that did not propose the specifics of the president’s proposal.


  • Former Republican

    The Republican Party— chasing its sane and rational members away, a few more each day.


    A Former Republican (thinking of his 20+ close friends who have also abandoned the party over the years, as it has increasingly become dominated by rabid, single-issue obsessed nuts and led by spineless “leaders” who pander to them in an effort to win at any cost)

  • Dubious Brother

    Gee Former Republican – after you and your 20 friends abandoned the Republican party, which party did you go to?

  • Avid Reader

    Truth in the eye of the beholder and gimmicks on both sides. Why would the US, who leads the entire world in this specific issue, sign up to add more financial responsibilities to the US taxpayers through funding and man-hours to form agencies and write reports to be presented at the council in Geneva only to be told by Iran (phenomenal human rights and disability discrimination record) or China that we are doing a terrible job?

  • mynameisbill

    Somebody should’ve just thrown in something about going to war in the treaty, and i’m sure the two of ’em would have signed it in a heart beat.

  • Joe Pendleton

    I just love this America that we live in. You know the one…The one in which you demonize your fellow man when he dares to disagree with you. What happened to constructive exchanges and tolerance? I guess we just need to pass a law to make people nicer…