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Collins: Doing the very least we can do

Can we talk about the United Nations? I know, I know. But give me a minute. We don't do this very often.

It looks as if the U.S. Senate is going to fail to ratify the U.N. treaty on the rights of people with disabilities this year. There are, of course, tons of things the Senate is going to fail to tackle between now and the fall elections. You name it, they're prepared to not do it.

But this treaty is kind of special. It's based on our very own Americans with Disabilities Act. It's an international agreement in which the rest of the world basically promises to behave more like the United States. How could anything go wrong with that? Hahahaha.

Well, you need a two-thirds vote of the Senate to ratify a treaty, and when you are talking about numbers that high, you are coming close to everybody who isn't either crazy or facing a primary challenge from a member of the tea party.

When the treaty first came up for a vote a little more than a year ago, it was torpedoed by the far right. Rick Santorum, the former Republican presidential candidate and well-known sweater-vest wearer, claimed it would endanger American parents' right to home-school their children. This is because there's a section that says: "The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration."

We will never agree to a treaty that says children's interests come first! Children should be seen and not considered. Thanks to our strong commitment to this point, the United States is the only country outside of South Sudan and Somalia that has failed to ratify the U.N. convention on children's rights.

Still, advocates felt they had a good chance to win on the disability treaty this year. They just needed to switch a handful of Republican votes. People from the State Department were working with Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, a "no" who had supported an arms-reduction treaty with the Russians in 2010. So not crazy. Also not up for re-election.

Then, at the start of Christmas break, Corker abruptly sent out a news release announcing that the treaty could "undermine our Constitution," and that he wouldn't vote for it.

"Everybody spent a lot of time with Corker, and added some regulations to satisfy him, but apparently it wasn't enough," said Bob Dole in a telephone interview. Dole, the former Republican leader, is an advocate for the disabled, who sat in his wheelchair watching as members of his party rejected the treaty the first time around.

Now, at 90, he's back on the case, making phone calls. But if Corker continues to balk, it's hard to see where the new votes for ratification will come from. Certainly not from people like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who once famously claimed that the United Nations was conspiring to close down all American golf courses. Or Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, who is facing a primary challenge from a radiologist whose website promises that he will be "the next Ted Cruz."


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