Forget the political impasse over the fiscal cliff. Perhaps nothing better captures Washington's ideological gridlock than a Senate that could not find enough bipartisan agreement to ratify a U.N. treaty banning discrimination against people with disabilities. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, whose grandfather was a polio victim, chose partisanship over humanitarian concerns and voted against the legislation.
Making the Senate vote even more embarrassing is that the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities is modeled after the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was passed by Congress in 1990. The legislation simply required that those with disabilities be granted the same rights and access to facilities as those without disabilities. But what a difference in time and common sense 22 years makes. With former Republican Senate Majority Leader and disabled World War II veteran Bob Dole, who led the charge to enact the 1990 law, looking on, 38 Republicans defeated the two-thirds vote needed to ratify the treaty by making the groundless argument that it would pave the way for the United Nations to trump U.S. sovereignty and state disability laws.
So far, 153 nations have signed on to the U.N. disabilities treaty. But a sizable faction of the Senate, still in the grip of irrational tea party extremists, decided to tell the world it is indifferent to safeguarding the needs of the disabled it once championed.