Legislative News
for the Week of
November 28, 2012
Rae Chornenky
Maria Jeffrey

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Rae Lynne Chornenky


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Talking Points on U.N. Treaty on Disabilities Being Considered in the Senate Today: 

     The Senate voted yesterday 61 to 36 on a motion to proceed on ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). CRPD is a treaty that was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 13, 2006, and went into force on May 3, 2008, after 20 countries ratified it. President Obama signed it on July 30, 2009, but the Senate has not ratified it and needs a two-thirds majority to do so. The treaty passed consideration in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 13-6 this past July, with 3 Republicans voting for passage--Senators Lugar, Barrasso, and Isakson. Senators Moran and McCain have also come out in favor of the treaty in a letter, while most Republican senators are opposed to the treaty. Here are some concerns about the treaty adapted from research conducted by the Heritage Foundation, the Home School Legal Defense Association, and the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute:

  • According to Article VI Section II of the Constitution, "all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." State sovereignty on the issue of disability law will be entirely eliminated with the ratification of this treaty.
  • Under Article 4(2) of the treaty, the United States would be obligated to fund disability programs in countries that cannot afford to set up their own programs.
  • There are concerns about what Article 7(2) of this treaty means for parents of disabled children making decisions about how to educate their children. While current federal law requires public schools to offer special assistance to children with disabilities, no parent is required to accept such assistance. Under this treaty, the right of the parent to decide whether or not to home school or send their child to school will dissolve, and the government will have the authority to decide if the parent must use the special assistance for disabled children at a public school rather than educating the child at home.
  • According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, Article 25 of the treaty does not repeat the parental rights rules of earlier human rights treaties (e.g., the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights). When this omission is considered with the "the best interest of the child" declaration in Article 7(2), the treaty dissolves parental rights for the education of children with disabilities. Click here to read more about more details on parental rights and infringements on American sovereignty in the CRPD. 
  • As the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) has pointed out in their research on the treaty, "the treaty and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities support a social definition of the term 'disability' not a medical definition." Further, "during the U.N. negotiations, former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh addressed the delegates and said that even with the definition of disability included in Americans with Disabilities Act, the definition has expanded. A social definition runs the risk of being expanded to such a degree that it will undermine the effectiveness of the law for those it is intended to protect. An expansive definition risks shifting focus away from helping people with disabilities to punishing the government or individuals for such things as 'attitudinal barriers' rather than just physical barriers to the disabled." 
  • We already have in the United States effective statutory and enforcement mechanisms in place to prevent those with disabilities from being discriminated against. Federal laws included the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Air Carrier Access Act, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, and the Architectural Barriers Act. Joining CRPD allows foreigners to interfere with U.S. policy making.
  • Social groups like C-FAM are worried about the controversial term "sexual and reproductive health" in the treaty, which is not defined. They state that "the use of that phrase in this treaty is the first time this term occurs in binding international law," and that the term was pushed through in the negotiation process even though 23 nations called for it to be taken out. Their opposition was ignored. The problem is that U.N. agencies, especially the World Health Organization, routinely interpret that phrase in other documents to include abortion rights. Therefore, the compliance committees set up to enforce this treaty may be able to interpret that phrase as including a right to have an abortion. 
     Many Republicans across the country are contacting their senators. Click here to find contact information for your senators.
Legal Challenge to Obamacare Taken Up
     Liberty University's legal challenge to Obamacare is to be heard by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, on an order from the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, Liberty University v. Geithner, concerns the constitutionality of the Obamacare employer mandate and whether the First Amendment is violated by forcing employers and individuals to pay for birth control coverage even if they are religiously opposed to doing so.

     As Politico reports, the Fourth Circuit has a tendency to hear cases quickly, meaning that the Liberty University case could be heard in the spring of 2013, and possibly by the Supreme Court in late fall of 2013. 

     Last month, the Supreme Court ordered the Justice Department to give them a reason why the Liberty case should not be taken up by the Supreme Court. While the Justice Department has not responded, it did say it did not have a problem with the case being heard by the 4th Circuit. 

     Last year, a 4th Circuit panel of three judges dismissed the Liberty case against Obamacare on the grounds of the Anti-Injunction Act, which holds that no case challenging a tax can be heard in court before the tax is set to be collected. The Supreme Court dismissed the Anti-Injunction Act argument when it upheld the individual mandate of the healthcare law last spring. 
Surveyed Americans Favor Tax Reform

     According to the Washington Post, a recent Gallup survey shows Americans strongly favor the Republican Party framework for averting the fiscal cliff by simplifying the tax code by lowering rates and closing loopholes, saving our biggest entitlement programs and making needed spending cuts rather than increasing tax rates. The new survey shows Americans support tax code reforms, eliminating special interest loopholes and cutting spending over the Democratic Party plan to raise tax rates. 

     The Winston Group, a GOP research firm, reports that 65 percent of Americans polled responded that rather than raise taxes on Americans who earn more than $250,000 a year, special interest tax loopholes and deductions commonly used by the wealthy should be removed. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has argued that creating new revenue via economic growth spurred by re-writing the tax code to eliminate individual loopholes and deductions will "be less harmful to businesses and the economy."

     Even though the House has already passed a bipartisan bill which stops all of the looming tax hikes, some Democrats who say they are not hesitant to gouge defense spending and let every American's taxes rise, are pushing for fiscal tax rate increases that would hurt nearly one million small businesses. Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) stated in the weekly Republican address that "at a time of so much economic suffering, we can't let this happen."

     "Republicans believe this is an opportunity to finally solve problems that Washington has ignored for too long, whether it's a tax code that's too costly and complicated or entitlement programs that are on the path to bankruptcy," said Chairman McMorris Rodgers. "No more short-term band-aids or shopworn excuses. We can do this right."