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112th Congress                                              Exec. Rept.
                                 SENATE
 2d Session                                                       112-6

======================================================================



 
CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES (TREATY DOC. 112-7)

                                _______
                                

                  July 31, 2012.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

          Mr. Kerry, from the Committee on Foreign Relations,
                        submitted the following

                                 REPORT

                             together with

                             MINORITY VIEWS

                    [To accompany Treaty Doc. 112-7]

    The Committee on Foreign Relations, to which was referred 
the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 
signed on June 30, 2009 (Treaty Doc. 112-7) (the 
``Convention''), having considered the same, reports favorably 
thereon with three reservations, eight understandings and two 
declarations, as indicated in the resolution of advice and 
consent, and recommends that the Senate give its advice and 
consent to ratification thereof, as set forth in this report 
and the accompanying resolution of advice and consent.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page

  I. Purpose..........................................................2
 II. Background.......................................................2
III. Major Provisions.................................................2
 IV. Entry Into Force and Amendments..................................6
  V. Implementing Legislation.........................................6
 VI. Committee Action.................................................7
VII. Committee Recommendation and Comments............................7
VIII.Text of Resolution of Advice and Consent to Ratification........14

 IX. Minority Views of Senators Risch, Rubio, Inhofe, DeMint, and Lee17
  X. Annex 1.--Hearing of July 12, 2012..............................21
 XI. Annex 2.--Material Submitted for the Record During Testimony...117
XII. Annex 3.--Additional Questions and Answers Submitted for the 
     Record.........................................................129
XIII.Annex 4.--Additional Letters Submitted for the Record in Support 
     of the Convention..............................................149

                               I. Purpose

    The purpose of this Convention is to promote, protect and 
ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and 
fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities.

                             II. Background

    The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 
was negotiated from 2002 to 2006, and was adopted on December 
13, 2006. It was opened for signature on March 30, 2007. One 
hundred and seventeen countries and the European Union are 
parties to the Convention.
    The United States provides greater legal protections 
against discrimination for individuals with disabilities than 
most of the rest of the world. Therefore, Americans with 
disabilities often face significant and, at times, prohibitive, 
barriers when they travel, work, serve, study and reside in 
other countries.
    Ratification of the Convention will advance our national 
interest in multiple ways. Among its benefits, the Convention 
will reaffirm and strengthen the global leadership role of the 
United States with regard to the rights of disabled persons, 
one to which our domestic record already attests. As a State 
Party to the Convention, the United States will be in a 
position to better promote the fundamental freedoms and 
individual autonomy of individuals with disabilities. It will 
allow us to more effectively support, assist, and encourage 
other countries to bring their domestic laws into compliance 
with the Convention and up to and in line with U.S. standards. 
Such action will benefit Americans with disabilities, including 
our disabled servicemen and servicewomen and disabled veterans, 
enabling them to travel, work, serve, study and reside in other 
countries without prohibitive barriers.
    July 26, 2012 marked the twenty-second anniversary of the 
landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. Through this and 
other legislation, the United States became a world leader in 
the protection of the rights of disabled individuals. Joining 
the Convention will be a significant step in continuing this 
leadership and will give the United States another tool to 
positively impact the lives of the fifty-four million Americans 
with disabilities and the one billion disabled individuals 
worldwide.

                         III. Major Provisions

    A detailed article-by-article analysis of the Convention 
may be found in the Letter of Submittal from the Secretary of 
State to the President (``Letter of Submittal''). Key 
provisions of the Convention are summarized below.

Scope of the Convention

    The Convention is intended to recognize and protect the 
rights of individuals with disabilities. Its stated purpose is 
``to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment 
of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons 
with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent 
dignity.'' Article 3 of the Convention sets out broad 
principles of autonomy, acceptance, and accessibility for 
individuals with disabilities. Equality and nondiscrimination 
are over-arching principles permeating the entire Convention.
    All Parties to the Convention agree to ``ensure and promote 
the full realization of all human rights and fundamental 
freedoms for all persons with disabilities without 
discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability.'' 
Article 4 requires Parties to adopt appropriate legislative, 
administrative, and other measures for the implementation of 
the rights in the Convention. The Convention's provisions can 
generally be grouped into the following categories: 
accessibility, education, equality, employment, and health.

Definition of Disability

    The Convention does not contain an explicit definition of 
``disability.'' Article 1 states that persons with disabilities 
``include those who have long-term physical, mental, 
intellectual, or sensory impairments which in interaction with 
various barriers may hinder their full and effective 
participation in society on an equal basis with others.'' As 
the Letter of Submittal makes clear, the absence of an express 
definition of the terms ``disability'' and ``persons with 
disabilities'' was a conscious decision at the negotiating 
conference for the Convention. As explained in the letter of 
submittal, ``the convention is not intended to supplant 
detailed and precise definitions of disability found in 
national legislation but is rather intended to afford States 
Parties flexibility in defining disability under domestic 
law.'' See Letter of Submittal at 5-7. As the U.S. legal 
framework demonstrates, this approach is preferable given that 
the definition of these terms may vary depending on the purpose 
of the law (e.g. employment discrimination or access to health 
services). See Letter of Submittal at 3-5.

Accessibility Provisions

    One fundamental goal of the Convention is to enable 
disabled persons to live independently and participate in all 
aspects of life. To that end, Article 9 requires States Parties 
to:


          take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with 
        disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to 
        the physical environment, to transportation, to 
        information and communications, including information 
        and communications technologies and systems, and to 
        other facilities and services open or provided to the 
        public, both in urban and in rural areas.


    These measures include the removal of obstacles to 
buildings, transportation, information, communications, and 
electronic and emergency services. Article 18 of the Convention 
directs States Parties to recognize the rights of disabled 
individuals to ``liberty of movement,'' to provide the freedom 
to choose their residence, and to guarantee the right to a 
nationality, on an equal basis with others. In particular, it 
requires States Parties to ensure that disabled persons are not 
deprived of their nationality or their ability to enter their 
country, arbitrarily or on the basis of their disability, and 
are free to leave any country, without discrimination on the 
basis of their disability. It requires children with 
disabilities to be ``registered immediately after birth and 
[to] have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire 
a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be 
cared for by their parents.''
    Article 19 emphasizes the right of all persons with 
disabilities to live and participate in the community on an 
equal basis. States Parties must ensure that people with 
disabilities have the opportunity to select their place of 
residence on an equal basis with others and access residential 
and other community support services, including assistance 
necessary for inclusion in the community.
    Article 20 emphasizes that States Parties must attempt to 
ensure personal mobility for people with disabilities, in part 
by facilitating access to assistive technologies and live 
assistance.

Education Provisions

    Article 24 of the Convention requires States Parties to 
``ensure an inclusive education system at all levels.'' 
Children with disabilities must be offered the same 
opportunities for free primary and secondary education as other 
children in their communities. Their individual needs must be 
reasonably accommodated, and they must receive support ``to 
facilitate their effective education.'' Additionally, the 
Convention specifically requires that Parties facilitate 
methods of communication to assist students with disabilities 
in fully participating in the educational process, including 
but not limited to the use of sign language, Braille, and other 
modes of communication.

Employment Provisions

    Article 27 of the Convention recognizes a right of 
individuals with disabilities to work in an ``environment that 
is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with 
disabilities.'' By joining the Convention, Parties agree to 
prohibit employment discrimination based on an employee or 
applicant's disability. If necessary, the Parties are to adopt 
legislation to bar such discrimination in various aspects of 
the employment process, including recruitment, hiring, 
retention, promotion, and termination. Employees with 
disabilities must be reasonably accommodated, permitted access 
to training programs, and allowed to exercise labor rights on 
an equal basis with others. States Parties must also employ 
persons with disabilities in the public sector on a non-
discriminatory basis.

Equality Provisions

    Article 5 of the Convention creates a broad prohibition 
against discrimination and requires Parties to recognize that 
``all persons are equal before and under the law and are 
entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection and 
equal benefit of the law.'' States Parties to the Convention 
must accordingly prohibit discrimination based on disability 
and take steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation is 
provided to disabled individuals. In Article 10, Parties 
reaffirm ``that every human being has the inherent right to 
life'' and agree to take all necessary measures to ``ensure its 
effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal 
basis with others.''
    Articles 12 and 13 mandate equal recognition before the law 
for disabled persons. Parties must provide equal access to 
justice systems and ensure that measures relating to the 
exercise of legal capacity provide safeguards to prevent abuse 
in accordance with international human rights law, while 
allowing for impartial judicial bodies. In addition, Articles 6 
and 7 of the Convention specifically recognize the human rights 
of women and children with disabilities.
    Article 14 requires Parties to ensure, on an equal basis 
with others, that persons with disabilities are not unlawfully 
or arbitrarily deprived of liberty. Article 15 states that 
persons should not be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, 
or degrading treatment or punishment. Article 16 requires 
States Parties to take measures to protect individuals with 
disabilities from all forms of exploitation, violence, and 
abuse--including gender-based abuse--as well as provide for the 
physical and psychological recovery of victims and 
investigation and, where appropriate, prosecution of 
perpetrators. Article 21 declares that disabled persons must be 
able to exercise their right to freedom of expression and 
opinion, through all forms of communication, on an equal basis 
with others. It advocates for the provision of information in 
accessible formats and technologies, and the facilitation of 
sign language, Braille, and other alternative methods of 
communication. Article 23 requires Parties to eliminate 
discrimination against persons with disabilities in domestic 
matters, such as marriage and parenthood. Article 28 requires 
Parties to promote realization by people with disabilities of 
their equal right to an adequate standard of living and equal 
access to food, clothing, and housing. Article 29 requires 
Parties to guarantee equal political rights, including 
accessible procedures for voting, as well as promote 
participation of disabled individuals in public affairs and 
nongovernmental organizations, on a nondiscriminatory basis. 
Article 30 requires Parties to recognize the rights of disabled 
individuals to take part in cultural life and recreational and 
sporting activities on a nondiscriminatory basis.

Health Provisions

    Under Article 25 of the Convention, the States Parties 
recognize that individuals with disabilities have the same 
right as others to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard 
of health. They must be offered the same range, quality, and 
standard of care as that available to other persons. Health 
care professionals must provide care on the same basis as they 
would provide if the individual seeking care did not have a 
disability. Article 25 also prohibits discrimination based on 
disability related to the provision of health and life 
insurance.

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

    Article 34 of the Convention creates a Committee on the 
Rights of Persons with Disabilities, whose members are elected 
by States Parties to the Convention. States Parties are 
required to submit periodic reports to the Committee that 
detail the measures they have taken to implement their 
obligations, as well as progress toward implementation. The 
Committee will then return ``such suggestions and general 
recommendations on the report as it may consider appropriate.'' 
These recommendations are advisory only. They are not binding 
on States Parties.

                  IV. Entry Into Force and Amendments

    The Convention enters into force for a ratifying or 
acceding State on the thirtieth day after its instrument of 
ratification or accession has been deposited. For the United 
States, this means thirty days after the deposit of the U.S. 
instrument of ratification with the advice and consent of the 
Senate.
    Amendments to articles 34, 38, 39 and 40 (which concern the 
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) may be 
adopted only by a consensus decision of States Parties to the 
Convention. If adopted, such amendments enter into force and 
become binding on all States Parties thirty days after two-
thirds of all States Parties submit instruments of ratification 
for the amendment.
    For all other articles of the Convention, amendments may be 
adopted by majority vote at a meeting at which at least two-
thirds of States Parties are present. If adopted, such 
amendments enter into force thirty days after two thirds of 
States Parties submit instruments of ratification for the 
amendment. However, such amendments are binding only on those 
States Parties that submit instruments of ratification.

                             V. Withdrawal

    Pursuant to Article 48, a Party may withdraw from the 
Convention by written notification to the Secretary-General of 
the United Nations. This withdrawal becomes effective one year 
after the receipt of notification.

                      VI. Implementing Legislation

    The provisions of the Convention are not self-executing. 
Accordingly, they cannot be directly enforced by U.S. courts or 
give rise to individually enforceable rights in the United 
States.
    The United States has a comprehensive network of existing 
federal and state disability laws and enforcement mechanisms, 
including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 
U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq.; the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 
Sec. 791 et seq.; the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by 
the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. Sec. 251(a)(2) 
and 255; the Fair Housing Act, as amended in 1988, 42 U.S.C. 
Sec. 3601 et seq.; the Air Carrier Access Act, 49 U.S.C. 
Sec. 41705; the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and 
Handicapped Act of 1984, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1973ee et seq.; the 
Help America Vote Act of 2002, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 15301-15545; the 
National Voter Registration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1973gg 
et seq.; the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 
U.S.C. Sec. 1997 et seq.; the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 
Sec. Sec. 101 et seq.; the Genetic Information 
Nondiscrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 200ff et seq.; the 
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.C.C. 
Sec. 1400 et seq., and the Architectural Barriers Act, 42 
U.S.C. Sec. 4151 et seq. In addition, disability 
nondiscrimination provisions have been integrated into statutes 
of general applicability to federal policies and programs. See 
Letter of Submittal at 91.
    In the large majority of cases, existing federal and state 
law meets or exceeds the requirements of the Convention. The 
recommended reservations in the resolution of advice and 
consent (discussed in section VIII below) make clear that the 
United States will limit its obligations under the Convention 
to exclude the narrow circumstances in which implementation of 
the Convention could otherwise implicate federalism or private 
conduct concerns. As the Department of Justice made clear, 
ratification of the Convention with the recommended 
reservations will not alter the balance of power between the 
federal government and the states.
    No additional implementing legislation is necessary with 
respect to the Convention.

                         VII. Committee Action

    The committee held a public hearing on the Convention on 
July 12, 2012. Testimony was received from the Honorable John 
McCain, United States Senator; the Honorable Tom Harkin, United 
States Senator; the Honorable Judith Heumann, Special Adviser 
for International Disability Rights, U.S. Department of State; 
Ms. Eve Hill, Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney 
General for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Justice; The 
Honorable Richard Thornburgh, Former Attorney General of the 
United States and Of Counsel, K&L; Gates, LLP; Mr. John Wodatch, 
Former Chief of the Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights 
Division, U.S. Department of Justice; Mr. Steven Groves, 
Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow, The Heritage Foundation; Dr. 
Michael Farris, Chancellor, Patrick Henry College; and Mr. John 
Lancaster, 1st Lt., U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), and Retired 
Executive Director of the National Council On Independent 
Living. (The transcript of the Hearing is included in Annex 1.)
    On July 26, 2012, the committee considered the Convention 
and ordered it favorably reported by a roll call vote of 13-6, 
with a quorum present and a majority of those members 
physically present and voting in the affirmative. The following 
Senators voted in the affirmative: Kerry, Boxer, Menendez, 
Cardin, Casey, Webb, Shaheen, Coons, Durbin, Udall, Lugar, 
Isakson and Barrasso. The following Senators voted in the 
negative: Corker, Risch, Rubio, Inhofe, DeMint and Lee.

              VIII. Committee Recommendations and Comments


A. General Comments

    The committee recommends that the Senate give its advice 
and consent to ratification of the Convention. The committee 
believes that the Convention advances important U.S. interests 
in a number of areas.
    The committee is persuaded by the support of experts in 
disability law and advocacy that ratification of the Convention 
will enable the United States to more effectively advocate on 
behalf of the millions of disabled Americans. These experts 
indicate that it will give the United States a more effective 
voice in advocating for standards and practices abroad that 
comport with the high standards for protection of disabled 
persons found in U.S. domestic law and practice. In addition to 
our bilateral efforts, ratification will allow the U.S. to 
nominate U.S. disabilities experts to sit on the Disabilities 
Committee, giving the United States a formal voice and vote in 
the Assembly of States Parties to the Convention.
    Sustained and effective U.S. leadership in such areas will 
have a positive, practical impact on the lives of disabled 
Americans. Witnesses before the committee testified that U.S. 
ratification will make it more likely that other governments 
will adopt standards and regulations concerning the disabled 
that conform to U.S. practice, and that the ability of disabled 
Americans to travel, work, serve, study, and live abroad will 
be enhanced greatly. For example, greater uniformity in 
standards such as the width of doorways or the size and pitch 
of ramps could advantage Americans who use wheelchairs when 
they travel abroad.
    Joining the Convention may also benefit American 
businesses. If countries adhere to the standards set forth in 
the Convention, then foreign businesses may be required to 
adopt new standards and practices to conform to new 
disabilities laws around the globe. To the extent these 
standards are modeled on U.S. law and practice, American 
businesses are already equipped to comply and thus have an 
advantage over foreign competitors. Moreover, American products 
and services that are already accessible to the disabled will 
continue to find new markets in countries whose disability 
standards move closer to those of the United States.
    As discussed in section VI and as explained in detail in 
the Letter of Submittal, in light of the reservations included 
in the resolution of advice and consent, current federal and 
state law meets or exceeds the requirements of the Convention 
and no changes to federal or state law will be required as a 
result of U.S. ratification.

B. Nature of the Convention as a Nondiscrimination Instrument

    The committee notes that the Convention is a 
nondiscrimination instrument, requiring that services and 
opportunities be made available on an equal basis to persons 
with disabilities and those without disabilities. Therefore, as 
the second understanding in the resolution of advice and 
consent makes clear, with respect to certain economic, social 
and cultural rights mentioned in the Convention, States Parties 
to the Convention are not obligated to provide new rights by 
virtue of accession to the Convention. Rather, the obligations 
of Parties to the Convention are to prevent discrimination on 
the basis of disability in the provision of such rights only 
insofar as they are already recognized and implemented under 
domestic law.
    This concept includes health services, as Article 25 of the 
Convention makes clear. In the course of the committee's 
consideration of the Convention, an understanding was added to 
the resolution of advice and consent stating that Article 25 
requires that health programs and procedures are provided to 
individuals with disabilities on a nondiscriminatory basis and 
does not address the provision of any particular health program 
or procedure.

C. The Disabilities Committee

    In the course of the committee's consideration of the 
Convention, questions were raised concerning the role of the 
Disabilities Committee established under Article 34 of the 
Convention. As discussed above, by ratifying the Convention, 
the U.S. will have the ability to nominate American citizens to 
serve as experts on the Disabilities Committee. The committee 
believes that American engagement with the Disabilities 
Committee will inure to the benefit of disabled Americans when 
they travel, work, serve, study and reside abroad. The 
Convention will require the United States to submit periodic 
reports to the Disabilities Committee for its review. In these 
reports, U.S. officials will have an opportunity to highlight 
the effectiveness of U.S. law and practice concerning 
individuals with disabilities and demonstrate that our laws and 
standards would be a good model for the rest of the world.
    The text of the Convention is clear that the role of the 
Disabilities Committee is limited. The Disabilities Committee 
is authorized under Article 36 to ``consider'' State Party 
Reports and to ``make such suggestions and general 
recommendations on the report as it may consider appropriate.'' 
Under Article 37, the Disabilities Committee ``shall give due 
consideration to ways and means of enhancing national 
capacities for the implementation of the present Convention.''
    The Disabilities Committee has no authority to compel 
actions by States Parties. While the conclusions, 
recommendations, or general comments issued by the Disabilities 
Committee could in some instances reflect established customary 
international law, the Disabilities Committee has no authority 
to create customary international law, and such statements by 
the Disabilities Committee do not, in and of themselves, 
constitute customary international law, as the sixth 
understanding in the resolution of advice and consent makes 
clear.
    States Parties to the Convention are not required to give 
greater weight to the interpretation of the Convention by the 
Disabilities Committee than they do their own interpretation. 
Further, they are not required to conform their interpretations 
or make them consistent with those of the Disabilities 
Committee.

D. Parental Rights

    The committee closely reviewed the ``best interests of the 
child'' standard set forth in Article 7 of the Convention, 
including whether U.S. ratification of the Convention could 
negatively impact parental rights with respect to disabled 
children, including parents who opt to home-school disabled 
children. The Department of Justice testified unequivocally 
that parental rights would not be hindered in any way. In 
response to written questions for the record, Senior Counselor 
to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eve Hill 
stated that ``[i]n light of the federalism and private conduct 
reservations, among others, there would be no change to 
Federal, State or local law regarding the ability of parents in 
the United States to make decisions about how to raise or 
educate their children as a result of ratification.'' To 
emphasize the unified views of the Senate and the executive 
branch on this issue, the committee unanimously agreed to 
include the seventh understanding in the resolution of advice 
and consent, which makes clear that the term or principle of 
the ``best interests of the child'' as used in Article 7(2) 
will be applied and interpreted to be coextensive with its 
application and interpretation under United States law, and 
that nothing in Article 7 requires a change to existing United 
States law.

E. Support for the Convention

    The President has expressed his strong support for U.S. 
ratification of the Convention. In addition, the committee has 
received letters of support for the Convention from former 
President George H.W. Bush, former Senator Bob Dole, and a wide 
range of affected groups and associations, including: ACCSES; 
Advocacy Center (Louisiana); African Methodist Episcopal Church 
Connectional Health Commission; AHEAD--Association on Higher 
Education and Disability; Air Force Sergeants Association; Air 
Force Women Officers Associated; Alabama Disabilities Advocacy 
Program; Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and 
Hard of Hearing; American Academy of Audiology; American 
Association of People with Disabilities; American Association 
on Health Disability; American Association on Intellectual and 
Developmental Disabilities; American Baptist Home Missions 
Societies; American Bar Association; American Council of the 
Blind; American Council of the Blind; American Counseling 
Association; American Foundation for the Blind; American GI 
Forum; American Muslim Health Professionals; American 
Psychological Association; American Society for Deaf Children; 
American Speech Language-Hearing Association; American Speech-
Language Hearing Association; American Therapeutic Recreation 
Association; Americans Association of People with Disabilities; 
AMVETS; Anti-Defamation League; Arizona Center for Disability 
Law; Association for Assistive Technology Act Programs; 
Association of Jewish Family & Children's Agencies; Association 
of the United States Navy; Association of University Centers on 
Disabilities; Autism National Committee; B'nai B'rith 
International; Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; Blinded 
Veterans Association; Brain Injury Association of America; 
Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America; Christian 
Church of Disciples of Christ (Disciple Home Missions); 
Christian Reformed Church in North America (Disability 
Concerns); Client Assistance Program and Protection & Advocacy 
(American Samoa); Community Legal Aid Society (Delaware); 
Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and 
Programs for the Deaf; Consortium for Citizens with 
Disabilities; Council for Exceptional Children; Council of 
American Instructors of the Deaf Council of Parent Attorneys 
and Advocates; Council of State Administrators of Vocational 
Rehabilitation; Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation; Deaf and Hard 
of Hearing Alliance; Disability Law & Advocacy Center of 
Tennessee; Disability Law Center (Massachusetts); Disability 
Law Center (Utah); Disability Law Center of Alaska; Disability 
Law Center; Disability Rights California; Disability Rights 
Center (Arkansas); Disability Rights Center (Maine); Disability 
Rights Center (New Hampshire); Disability Rights Center of 
Kansas;Disability Rights Center of Virgin Islands; Disability 
Rights Education and Defense Fund; Disability Rights Florida; 
Disability Rights Idaho; Disability Rights Iowa; Disability 
Rights Mississippi; Disability Rights Montana; Disability 
Rights Network of Pennsylvania; Disability Rights New Jersey; 
Disability Rights New Mexico; Disability Rights North Carolina; 
Disability Rights Oregon; Disability Rights Texas; Disability 
Rights Vermont; Disability Rights Washington; Disability Rights 
Wisconsin; Disabled American Veterans; Disciples Justice Action 
Network; Division for Early Childhood of the Council for 
Exceptional Children; Easter Seals; Epilepsy Foundation; Equal 
Rights for Persons with Disabilities International, Inc. Equip 
for Equality (Illinois); Family Voices; Georgia Advocacy 
Office; Goodwill Industries International; Guam Legal Services 
Corporation; Hands and Voices; Hawaii Disability Rights Center; 
Hearing Health Foundation; Hearing Loss Association of America; 
Hindu American Foundation; IDEA Infant Toddler Coordinators 
Association; Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services; 
International Hearing Association; Iraq and Afghanistan 
Veterans of America Jewish War Veterans; Islamic society of 
North America; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Jewish 
Federation of Metropolitan Chicago; Kentucky Protection and 
Advocacy; L'Arche USA; Lutheran Services in America Disability 
Network; Maryland Disability Law Center; Mental Health America; 
Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services; Military Officers 
Association of America; Minnesota Disability Law Center; 
Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services; Muslim Public 
Affairs Council; Nation Council of Jewish Women; National 
Alliance of Mental Illness; National Association for Black 
Veterans; National Association of Councils on Developmental 
Disabilities; National Association of Head Injury 
Administrators; National Association of States United for Aging 
and Disabilities; National Association of School Psychologists; 
National Association of State Directors of Developmental 
Disabilities Services; National Association of State Directors 
of Special Education; National Benevolent Association of the 
Christian Church of Disciples of Christ; National Council of 
Jewish Women; National Council on Disability; National Council 
on Independent Living; National Council on the Churches of 
Christ in the USA; National Court Reports Association; National 
Disability Rights Network; National Down Syndrome Congress; 
National Down Syndrome Society; National Guard Association of 
the United States; National Military Family Association; 
National Multiple Sclerosis Society; National Rehabilitation 
Association; Native American Disability Law Center; Nebraska 
Advocacy Services Nevada Disability Advocacy & Law Center; 
NETWORK--a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; New York 
State Commission on Quality of Care & Advocacy for Persons with 
Disabilities; North Dakota Protection & Advocacy Project; 
Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems; Office of 
Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities 
(Connecticut); Office of the Governor/Ombudsman for Persons 
with Disabilities (Puerto Rico);Ohio Legal Rights Service; 
Oklahoma Disability Law Center; Paralyzed Veterans of America; 
Perkins School for the Blind; Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 
Office of Public Witness; Protection and Advocacy for People 
with Disabilities (South Carolina); Rabbinical Assembly; 
Reformed Church in America (Disability Concerns); Registry of 
Interpreters for the Deaf; Rhode Island Disability Law Center; 
South Dakota Advocacy Services; Special Olympics; TASH; 
Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc.; The 
Advocacy Institute; The American Legion; The Arc of the United 
States; The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund; The 
Jewish Disability Network; The Jewish Federations of North 
America; The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; 
The Legal Center (Colorado); The Rabbinical Assembly; The 
Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of 
North America; UJA-Federation of New York; Union of Reform 
Judaism; Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations; 
United Cerebral Palsy; United Church of Christ (Justice Witness 
Ministries); United Methodist General Board of Church and 
Society United Sates International Council on Disabilities; 
United Spinal Association; United States International Council 
on Disabilities; United States Olympic Committee; United 
Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; University Legal Services 
(District of Columbia); Veterans for Common Sense; Veterans of 
Foreign Wars; Veterans of Modern Warfare; VetsFirst; Vietnam 
Veterans of America; West Virginia Advocates; Women's Rabbinic 
Network; Wounded Warrior Project; and the Wyoming Protection 
and Advocacy System. (Copies of letters received by the 
committee are included in Annex 4.)

F. Discussion regarding the Resolution of Advice and Consent

    The committee has included a number of reservations, 
understandings and declarations in the resolution of advice and 
consent. The committee notes that Article 46 of the Convention 
makes clear that reservations to the treaty are permitted, 
provided that they are not incompatible with the object and 
purpose of the Convention.

1. Reservations

    Section (a) of the resolution contains three reservations.
    Federalism. The first reservation addresses federalism 
issues. Article 4(1) of the Convention states that the 
provisions of the Convention ``shall extend to all parts of 
federal States without any limitations or exceptions.'' Because 
certain provisions of the Convention concern matters 
traditionally governed by state law rather than federal law, 
and because in very limited instances some state and local 
standards are less vigorous than the Convention would require, 
a reservation is required to preserve the existing balance 
between federal and state jurisdiction over these matters.
    Non-Regulation of Private Conduct. The second reservation 
concerns the extent of the United States obligations under the 
Convention with regard to private conduct. Although the United 
States generally and broadly applies nondiscrimination laws to 
private entities with respect to operation in public spheres of 
life, some laws set a threshold before their protections are 
triggered. For example, selected employment-related civil 
rights laws apply only to employers that have 15 or more 
employees. Thus, existing legislation does not extend to 
absolutely all private discrimination against persons with 
disabilities, such as actions by a sole proprietor or rental of 
a single-family home. Further, individual privacy and freedom 
from governmental interference in certain private conduct are 
also recognized as among the fundamental values of our free and 
democratic society. Accordingly, a reservation is required to 
make clear that the United States does not accept any 
obligation under the Convention to enact legislation or take 
any other measures with respect to private conduct except as 
mandated by the Constitution and laws of the United States. The 
committee notes that in a written response for the record, the 
Department of State and the Department of Justice confirmed 
that in light of this reservation, ratification of the 
Disabilities Convention would not impose any new requirements 
on employers exempted by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    Torture, Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment. The third 
reservation concerns the extent of the United States 
obligations under Article 15 (Freedom from Torture or Cruel, 
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment). As Article 15 of 
the Convention covers the same subject matter as Articles 2 and 
16 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other 
Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Article 
7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 
the third reservation makes clear that the obligations of the 
United States under Article 15 of the Convention shall be 
subject to the same reservations and understandings that apply 
to U.S. ratification of those two treaties.

2. Understandings

    Section (b) of the resolution contains eight 
understandings.
    First Amendment. The first understanding makes clear that 
the Convention, including Article 8, does not authorize or 
require legislation or other action that would restrict the 
right of free speech, expression, and association protected by 
the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.
    Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The second 
understanding makes clear that with respect to the application 
of certain economic, social and cultural rights set forth in 
specific articles of the Convention, the United States 
understands that its obligations are only to prevent 
discrimination on the basis of disability in the provision of 
any such rights insofar as they are recognized and implemented 
under U.S. federal law.
    Equal Employment Opportunity. The third understanding makes 
clear that the Convention does not require the adoption of a 
comparable worth framework for persons with disabilities. The 
committee notes that in a written response for the record, the 
Department of State and the Department of Justice confirmed 
their view that current U.S. law is consistent with the 
language in Article 27 regarding equal pay for work of equal 
value.
    U.S. Military Departments. The fourth understanding 
concerns Article 27 of the Convention and the obligation to 
take appropriate steps to afford to individuals with 
disabilities the right to equal access to equal work, including 
nondiscrimination in hiring and promotion of employment of 
persons with disabilities in the public sector. Under current 
U.S. law, certain departments of the U.S. military charged with 
defense of the national security are exempted from liability 
under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The understanding makes 
clear that the United States understands the obligations of 
Article 27 to take appropriate steps as not affecting hiring, 
promotion, or other terms or conditions of employment of 
uniformed employees in the U.S. military departments and that 
Article 2 does not recognize rights in this regard that exceed 
those rights available under U.S. federal law.
    Definitions. The fifth understanding clarifies that the 
terms ``disability,'' ``persons with disabilities,'' and 
``undue burden'' (terms that are not defined in the 
Convention), ``discrimination on the basis of disability,'' and 
``reasonable accommodation'' are defined for the United States 
of America coextensively with the definitions of such terms 
pursuant to relevant United States law.
    Article 34 Committee. The sixth understanding concerns the 
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 
established under Article 34 of the Convention. It clarifies 
with particularity the limited powers of that Committee, 
including that it has no authority to compel actions by states 
parties, and the United States does not consider conclusions, 
recommendations, or general comments issued by the Committee as 
constituting customary international law or to be legally 
binding on the United States in any manner.
    Health Programs and Procedures. The seventh understanding 
clarifies that the Convention is a nondiscrimination 
instrument, and that therefore nothing in the Convention, 
including Article 25, addresses the provision of any particular 
health program or procedure. Rather, the Convention requires 
that health programs and procedures are provided to individuals 
with disabilities on a nondiscriminatory basis.
    Best Interest of the Child. The eighth understanding 
concerns the ``best interests of the child'' standard set forth 
in Article 7(2) of the Convention. It clarifies that the term 
or principle of the ``best interests of the child'' as used in 
Article 7(2), will be applied and interpreted to be coextensive 
with its application and interpretation under United States 
law, and that consistent with this understanding, nothing in 
Article 7 requires a change to existing United States law.

3. Declarations

    Section (c) of the resolution contains two declarations.
    Non Self-Executing. The first declaration states that the 
provisions of the Convention are not self-executing. This 
reflects the shared understanding of the committee and the 
executive branch that the provisions of the Treaty are not 
self-executing, are not directly enforceable in U.S. courts, 
and do not confer private rights of action enforceable in the 
United States.
    U.S. Law Complies. The second declaration provides that, in 
view of the reservations to be included in the instrument of 
ratification, current United States law fulfills or exceeds the 
obligations of the Convention for the United States. As 
discussed in section VI above, the committee is satisfied that, 
in view of the reservations in the resolution of advice and 
consent and the comprehensive network of existing federal and 
state disability laws and enforcement mechanisms, no additional 
implementing legislation is necessary for the United States to 
comply with the Convention.

     VIII. Text of Resolution of Advice and Consent to Ratification

    Resolved, (two-thirds of the Senators present concurring 
therein),
    That the Senate advises and consents to the ratification of 
the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 
adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 13, 
2006, and signed by the United States of America on June 30, 
2009 (``the Convention'') (Treaty Doc. 112-7), subject to the 
reservations of subsection (a), the understandings of 
subsection (b), and the declarations of subsection (c).
    (a) Reservations.--The advice and consent of the Senate to 
the ratification of the Convention is subject to the following 
reservations, which shall be included in the instrument of 
ratification:
          (1) This Convention shall be implemented by the 
        Federal Government of the United States of America to 
        the extent that it exercises legislative and judicial 
        jurisdiction over the matters covered therein, and 
        otherwise by the state and local governments; to the 
        extent that state and local governments exercise 
        jurisdiction over such matters, the obligations of the 
        United States of America under the Convention are 
        limited to the Federal Government's taking measures 
        appropriate to the Federal system, which may include 
        enforcement action against state and local actions that 
        are inconsistent with the Constitution, the Americans 
        with Disabilities Act, or other Federal laws, with the 
        ultimate objective of fully implementing the 
        Convention.
          (2) The Constitution and laws of the United States of 
        America establish extensive protections against 
        discrimination, reaching all forms of governmental 
        activity as well as significant areas of non-
        governmental activity. Individual privacy and freedom 
        from governmental interference in certain private 
        conduct are also recognized as among the fundamental 
        values of our free and democratic society. The United 
        States of America understands that by its terms the 
        Convention can be read to require broad regulation of 
        private conduct. To the extent it does, the United 
        States of America does not accept any obligation under 
        the Convention to enact legislation or take other 
        measures with respect to private conduct except as 
        mandated by the Constitution and laws of the United 
        States of America.
          (3) Article 15 of the Convention memorializes 
        existing prohibitions on torture and other cruel, 
        inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment contained 
        in Articles 2 and 16 of the United Nations Convention 
        Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
        Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and in Article 7 of the 
        International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 
        (ICCPR), and further provides that such protections 
        shall be extended on an equal basis with respect to 
        persons with disabilities. To ensure consistency of 
        application, the obligations of the United States of 
        America under Article 15 shall be subject to the same 
        reservations and understandings that apply for the 
        United States of America with respect to Articles 1and 
        16 of the CAT and Article 7 of the ICCPR.
    (b) Understandings.--The advice and consent of the Senate 
to the ratification of the Convention is subject to the 
following understandings, which shall be included in the 
instrument of ratification:
          (1) The United States of America understands that 
        this Convention, including Article 8 thereof, does not 
        authorize or require legislation or other action that 
        would restrict the right of free speech, expression, 
        and association protected by the Constitution and laws 
        of the United States of America.
          (2) Given that under Article 1 of the Convention 
        ``[t]he purpose of the present Convention is to 
        promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal 
        enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms 
        by all persons with disabilities,'' with respect to the 
        application of the Convention to matters related to 
        economic, social, and cultural rights, including in 
        Articles 4(2), 24, 25, 27, 28 and 30, the United States 
        of America understands that its obligations in this 
        respect are to prevent discrimination on the basis of 
        disability in the provision of any such rights insofar 
        as they are recognized and implemented under U.S. 
        Federal law.
          (3) Current U.S. law provides strong protections for 
        persons with disabilities against unequal pay, 
        including the right to equal pay for equal work. The 
        United States of America understands the Convention to 
        require the protection of rights of individuals with 
        disabilities on an equal basis with others, including 
        individuals in other protected groups, and does not 
        require adoption of a comparable worth framework for 
        persons with disabilities.
          (4) Article 27 of the Convention provides that States 
        Parties shall take appropriate steps to afford to 
        individuals with disabilities the right to equal access 
        to equal work, including nondiscrimination in hiring 
        and promotion of employment of persons with 
        disabilities in the public sector. Current 
        interpretation of Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act 
        of 1973 exempts U.S. Military Departments charged with 
        defense of the national security from liability with 
        regard to members of the uniformed services. The United 
        States of America understands the obligations of 
        Article 27 to take appropriate steps as not affecting 
        hiring, promotion, or other terms or conditions of 
        employment of uniformed employees in the U.S. Military 
        Departments, and that Article 27 does not recognize 
        rights in this regard that exceed those rights 
        available under U.S. Federal law.
          (5) The United States of America understands that the 
        terms ``disability,'' ``persons with disabilities,'' 
        and ``undue burden'' (terms that are not defined in the 
        Convention), ``discrimination on the basis of 
        disability,'' and ``reasonable accommodation'' are 
        defined for the United States of America coextensively 
        with the definitions of such terms pursuant to relevant 
        United States law.
          (6) The United States of America understands that the 
        Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 
        established under Article 34 of the Convention, is 
        authorized under Article 36 to ``consider'' State Party 
        Reports and to ``make such suggestions and general 
        recommendations on the report as it may consider 
        appropriate.'' Under Article 37, the Committee ``shall 
        give due consideration to ways and means of enhancing 
        national capacities for the implementation of the 
        present Convention.'' The United States of America 
        understands that the Committee on the Rights of Persons 
        with Disabilities has no authority to compel actions by 
        states parties, and the United States of America does 
        not consider conclusions, recommendations, or general 
        comments issued by the Committee as constituting 
        customary international law or to be legally binding on 
        the United States in any manner.
          (7) The United States of America understands that the 
        Convention is a nondiscrimination instrument. 
        Therefore, nothing in the Convention, including Article 
        25, addresses the provision of any particular health 
        program or procedure. Rather, the Convention requires 
        that health programs and procedures are provided to 
        individuals with disabilities on a nondiscriminatory 
        basis.
          (8) The United States of America understands that, 
        for the United States of America, the term or principle 
        of the ``best interests of the child'' as used in 
        Article 7(2), will be applied and interpreted to be 
        coextensive with its application and interpretation 
        under United States law. Consistent with this 
        understanding, nothing in Article 7 requires a change 
        to existing United States law.
    (c) Declarations.--The advice and consent of the Senate to 
the ratification of the Convention is subject to the following 
declarations:
          The United States of America declares that the 
        provisions of the Convention are not self-executing.
          The Senate declares that, in view of the reservations 
        to be included in the instrument of ratification, 
        current United States law fulfills or exceeds the 
        obligations of the Convention for the United States of 
        America.

              X. Minority Views of Senators Risch, Rubio, 
                        Inhofe, DeMint, and Lee

    During the foundational years of our country, the leaders 
who charted its course warned us about foreign entanglements 
that would undermine our sovereignty and threaten our domestic 
affairs. So strong was his concern that President George 
Washington focused part of his farewell address on this issue. 
President Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of 
Independence, stated:


          Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all 
        nations--entangling alliances with none.


    The Founders wisely cautioned future generations of 
Americans against foreign entanglements such as the U.N. 
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The 
admirable goal of advancing the interests of disabled people 
does not necessitate ascension to an international treaty that 
will assume the same legal authority as the Constitution upon 
ratification.
    The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate 
for treaty ratification, which demonstrates the seriousness and 
concern the framers of the Constitution held for such 
international accords. They sought to ensure these agreements 
were comprehensively scrutinized, overwhelmingly supported, and 
ratified only when vital U.S. national interests were advanced.
    The Foreign Relations Committee passed this Convention out 
of committee just two months after it was first presented to 
the Senate. Members of the Committee were given one opportunity 
to discuss the merits of and their concerns with the treaty in 
a single hearing that included both proponents of the treaty 
and opposition witnesses. We voted on the Resolution of 
Ratification shortly thereafter. To say the least, this treaty 
has not been properly or thoroughly scrutinized. Furthermore, 
not all the members of the committee have full confidence that 
the language of the treaty or the Resolution of Ratification 
will fully protect the interests or the sovereignty of the 
United States.
    Language in the Convention that specifically references 
domestic issues outside the realm of "disabilities" requires 
further explanation. Article 25(a) of the Convention addresses 
the range and quality of health care, including "sexual and 
reproductive health". The previous Administration found it 
necessary to submit statements explicitly declaring that these 
terms do not include abortion. Poland, Malta, and Monaco made 
similar reservations when they signed the treaty. However, no 
language defining sexual and reproductive health has been 
placed in the Administration's instrument of ratification, and 
an attempt to do so in the Foreign Relations Committee was 
defeated. We are particularly concerned about this issue 
because Secretary Clinton stated in 2009 in front of the House 
Foreign Affairs Committee that:


          We happen to think that family planning is an 
        important part of women's health, and reproductive 
        health includes access to abortion, that I believe 
        should be safe, legal, and rare.


    Abortion remains a highly controversial issue in the United 
States, and we strongly believe it should be determined by 
State and local governments, not at an international level.
    Through the admission of this Administration we know the 
treaty will not improve the rights of the disabled in the 
United States. Our country has already set the highest standard 
for treatment of and assistance to the disabled; so much so 
that the drafters of this Convention used U.S. laws and 
regulations to build its framework. As for the disabled in 
other countries, there is little evidence available to suggest 
this Convention will assist other nations' efforts to improve 
their disabilities standards. Of the 117 member countries, the 
Convention's committee only has issued recommendations for 
improvements to three countries: Tunisia, Spain, and Malta.
    The United States Constitution guarantees certain rights to 
the American people--rights such as freedom of speech, freedom 
of worship, and freedom from slavery. The United States 
Constitution does not provide the right to be subjected to an 
action of another person or group--nor should any treaty or 
alliance to which the United States subjects itself. Should the 
United States accede to this treaty, we will be obligated to 
write a status report every four years regarding our disability 
laws and receive criticism and recommendations from a committee 
of representatives from countries that have lower standards for 
the disabled than our own. This undermines our sovereignty and 
our Constitution. According to Article 35 of the Convention, 
this report must include a list and description of measures 
taken to fulfill the obligations of the treaty. We do not know 
the scope of this report or its financial and labor costs to 
the American taxpayer.
    As noted in hearing testimony, similar committees born of 
other United Nations conventions have an extensive record of 
overstepping their authority and making recommendations that 
are contrary to the interests and values of the United States. 
For example, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial 
Discrimination issued a report in 2008 that addressed issues 
well beyond the scope of its mandate, such as U.S policies 
regarding the death penalty, voting rights, and detention at 
Guantanamo Bay. The Committee associated with the Convention on 
the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women 
brashly issued recommendations regarding the legalization of 
prostitution, gender quotas, and increased termination of 
pregnancies.
     Proponents of this treaty believe its ratification would 
signal to the world our commitment to advancing the interests 
of those with disabilities. The U.S. Senate should not ratify 
this or any other treaty on these grounds. In this particular 
instance, the United States enjoys the moral high ground 
because we lead the world in advancing the interests of the 
disabled. We rightly reject the idea that our moral authority 
in the world is ever derived through ascension to subjective 
international conventions.
    Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states:


          [The President] shall have Power, by and with the 
        Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties.


    The very purpose of a treaty is to advance a specific U.S. 
security or economic interest, and the United States should 
only join those treaties that make us a stronger or safer 
nation. In no way do we take issue with the goal of promoting 
higher standards for the treatment of disabled people. However, 
this Convention is not essential to the security or economic 
interests of the United States. We firmly believe that the 
issues concerned in this Convention would be better addressed 
in a format that would not require the ratification of a 
legally binding international treaty that would carry the same 
authority as the Constitution.
  X. Annex 1.--Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities 
                          (Treaty Doc. 112-7)

                              ----------                              


                        Thursday, July 12, 2012

                                       U.S. Senate,
                            Committee on Foreign Relations,
                                                    Washington, DC.
    The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:05 a.m., in 
room SD-G50, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. John F. Kerry 
(chairman of the committee) presiding.
    Present: Senators Kerry, Menendez, Cardin, Shaheen, Coons, 
Durbin, Lugar, Corker, Risch, DeMint, Isakson, Barrasso, and 
Lee.

             OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN KERRY,
                U.S. SENATOR FROM MASSACHUSETTS

    The Chairman. Good morning. The hearing will come to order.
    Thank you all very much for being here today.
    We are meeting to examine the Convention on the Rights of 
Persons with Disabilities. We are very grateful to have a 
number of our colleagues who have had a longtime interest in 
this prepared to testify. And I know that there will be other 
Senators arriving. Senator Lugar has told me he is going to be 
a little bit late, but he will be here.
    It has been 22 years since the Americans with Disabilities 
Act knocked down barriers to employment and Government service 
here at home, and Senator Harkin played such a key role, along 
with my former colleague Senator Ted Kennedy, in achieving that 
goal and many others. Now it is time to do the same for 
Americans with disabilities when they travel overseas.
    The world obviously faces many competing crises, and all of 
them contend for attention and for leadership. But I believe 
very strongly that we have a responsibility on this committee 
to ensure that issues deserving attention also receive a focus.
    As the author and civil rights activist James Baldwin 
reminds us, ``Not everything that is faced can be changed, but 
nothing can be changed until it is faced.''
    I couldn't agree more. All Americans have an inherent right 
to be treated as equal citizens of our Nation. But the historic 
march toward a better, fairer America can come about only if we 
are willing to make those with certain challenges the focus of 
our work.
    Like most of you, I have witnessed over time firsthand the 
challenges and discrimination of people with disabilities and 
the many ways in which they are prevented from fully 
participating in activities that most of us are privileged to 
take for granted.
    That is why early on in my career in the Senate, when I 
first came here, I served with Senator Lowell Weicker on the 
HELP Committee, what is now the HELP Committee. And I was 
chairman for a brief period of time of something back then 
anachronistically called the Handicapped Subcommittee. And we 
actually did the first work that unleashed technology and has 
produced assistive devices that help people with challenges to 
be able to speak and communicate.
    I am proud of that, and I cosponsored the Ending the 
Medicare Disability Waiting Period Act to phase out a 24-month 
waiting period for individuals with disabilities to become 
eligible for Medicare benefits. That is why I happily worked 
with Senator Pryor on the 21st Century Communications and Video 
Accessibility Act, which improves access to audio and visual 
materials for the deaf and the blind.
    And it is why I recently introduced the Children's Mental 
Health Accessibility Act to provide States an option to serve 
children and adolescents on Medicaid with intensive home or 
community-based mental health treatment services and also to 
replace the also anachronistically term ``mentally retarded'' 
in the Social Security Act with the more appropriate term 
``intellectually disabled.''
    So this is a march that goes on for all of us. We all 
learn, and we all eventually, I hope, make progress. I have 
heard from countless advocates on this issue, the issue we are 
here to talk about today, from the Perkins School of the Blind 
in my home State to disabled Americans across the country to 
veterans groups, all of whom tell me this treaty will make a 
difference in their daily lives.
    It is not only the right thing to do. It is also the smart 
thing to do. And it will extend essential protections and 
liberties to millions of U.S. citizens with disabilities when 
they travel overseas, including our disabled service men and 
women and all veterans.
    As I understand it, there really are only upsides to 
joining this Convention, which enshrines the principles of the 
ADA. The United States is already a leader in domestic 
disability rights protection, and joining the Convention will 
provide a critical tool as we work with other countries to 
advocate what they follow and, hopefully, that they will follow 
our lead and ensure that people with disabilities are free to 
live and work and travel wherever they want.
    This is important. Across the developing world, persons 
with disabilities face indignities and prejudice on a daily 
basis. They are prevented from attending schools, subject to 
discriminatory hiring practices, often unable to enter public 
buildings, safely cross a street, or even ride a public bus.
    Americans may not witness these discriminatory acts in our 
daily lives, but they sting our conscience from half a world 
away. Ratifying the Convention would strengthen our hand as we 
push for higher standards internationally, standards to which 
all of us should aspire.
    Twenty-two years ago, President George H.W. Bush signed the 
ADA into law with the promise of fostering full and equal 
access to civic, economic, and social life for individuals with 
disabilities. Upon its passage, Senator Ted Kennedy, who played 
the role that I described, said, ``The act has the potential to 
become one of the great civil rights laws of our generation. 
This legislation is a bill of rights for the disabled, and 
America will be better and a fairer nation because of it.''
    That was the spirit that animated passage of the ADA, and 
it is the same spirit that has inspired a bipartisan group of 
Senators to work tirelessly in support of this Convention. I 
especially want to acknowledge the effort here of three 
longtime Senate leaders on disabilities issues.
    Senator Harkin, who is here now, who chaired the HELP 
Committee and been such an extraordinary leader on this issue 
and on the ADA itself. Senator Durbin, who will be here and who 
will chair part of this because I have some conflicts, but we 
will share that responsibility. And Senator McCain. And we are 
grateful for their leadership.
    I am also pleased that several other members of this 
committee--Senator Barrasso, Senator Coons, and Senator Udall--
are part of this bipartisan group. They are each great 
champions for persons with disabilities, and I know that they 
are going to work to do whatever it takes to move this process 
forward and help deserving Americans enjoy the full measure of 
their rights.
    To help us explore these issues, we have three excellent 
panels of witnesses. On the first panel, we are pleased to be 
joined by our friends and colleagues I mentioned, John McCain 
and Tom Harkin. In addition to his own views, Senator McCain 
will be sharing with us a statement from former majority leader 
Bob Dole.
    On our second panel, we welcome Judith Heumann, Special 
Adviser for International Disability Rights at the State 
Department, and Eve Hill, Senior Counsel to the Assistant 
Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Justice Department.
    And on the final panel, we have Richard Thornburgh, former 
Attorney General of the United States and of counsel to the law 
firm K&L; Gates. We have John Wodatch, the former Chief of the 
Disability Rights Section at the Civil Rights Division, the 
Justice Department. Steven Groves, the Bernard and Barbara 
Lomas Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and John Lancaster, a 
Vietnam veteran, retired executive director of the National 
Council on Independent Living, and a respected advocate for the 
disabled community.
    Rounding out the panel, we have Michael Farris, chairman 
and general counsel of the Home School Legal Defense 
Association and chancellor at the Patrick Henry College in 
Purcellville, VA.
    So welcome to all of you, and we look forward to your 
testimony.
    In the absence of Senator Lugar and with the permission of 
Senator Corker, if I may, I want to turn to Senator Barrasso, 
who has been advocating for this. And we appreciate his 
bipartisan efforts in that regard, and I ask him to make some 
opening comments.

                STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN BARRASSO,
                   U.S. SENATOR FROM WYOMING

    Senator Barrasso. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
    I appreciate you holding this hearing today to examine such 
an important effort, this Convention.
    The United States has opened the door for millions of 
Americans to actively participate and contribute to our great 
country. Through numerous U.S. laws and enforcement measures, 
our Nation has worked to end discrimination and breaking down 
barriers that prevent full participation of all members of our 
society.
    We have raised the conscience of our Nation regarding 
disabilities and the impact that they have on people's lives. 
The fair treatment of citizens of the United States is 
paramount. Every citizen, regardless of obstacles in their 
lives, should have this opportunity to work, to live, to fully 
take part in our society. These are the ideals of the American 
people.
    It is important to our citizens and individuals with 
disabilities across the globe that these fundamental values are 
advanced worldwide. The Convention on the Rights of Persons 
with Disabilities is based on the same principles as the 
Americans with Disabilities Act.
    The general principles embodied in this Convention include 
nondiscrimination, equal opportunity, independence, 
accessibility, human dignity, and full and effective 
participation and inclusion in society. So I strongly support 
these principles and believe that they should be promoted by 
the international community.
    The Convention offers the United States a forum to utilize 
our wealth of knowledge and practical experiences to influence 
our nations in recognizing the rights of people with 
disabilities. It can help in advancing policies so Americans 
with disabilities can receive the same protections while 
working, studying, and traveling abroad, including, and very 
importantly, our veterans.
    Ratification of the Convention also demonstrates our 
Nation's ongoing commitment to equality and opportunity for 
individuals with disabilities.
    Chairman Kerry, I do ask that a letter from President 
George Herbert Walker Bush expressing his support for U.S. 
ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities be placed in the record. I have that letter with 
me.
    The Chairman. Without objection, it will be.
    Senator Barrasso. And Mr. Chairman, I also ask that another 
letter I have, signed by 21 veterans and military organizations 
in favor of U.S. ratification of the Convention, also be placed 
in the record.
    The Chairman. Without objection.

[Editor's note.--The two letters mentioned above can be found 
in Annex II.]

    Senator Barrasso. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I welcome our guests. I welcome all those who are here in 
attendance and those testifying.
    And thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this vital 
hearing.
    The Chairman. Thanks very much.
    And it is unusual. I don't usually do this, but since 
Senator Durbin has agreed to chair part of this because of my 
conflicts, I just want to ask him if he has any opening 
comment. He has been particularly involved also in helping to 
bring us here.

              STATEMENT OF HON. RICHARD J. DURBIN,
                   U.S. SENATOR FROM ILLINOIS

    Senator Durbin. Thanks, Senator Kerry.
    I want to thank Senator Barrasso--I caught the end of your 
statement here--for his strong support.
    Particularly, thanks to our first two witnesses here. 
Senator McCain, I have worked with him in putting together a 
bipartisan coalition supporting this. And Tom Harkin. On the 
Democratic side, there is no person who has a stronger 
reputation and history and record when it comes to standing up 
for people with disabilities.
    Having you here as a lead-off witness, Tom, is a signal to 
all of us that this is the real thing. I can think back to when 
you and Senator Dole really stepped forward and brought America 
into a position of leadership when it came to standing up for 
disabled people all around the world.
    We now have 153 nations that have signed on to this 
Convention or treaty; 117 have ratified. It is time for the 
United States to step up and to say that the principles that we 
fought for in the Americans with Disabilities Act are worth 
fighting for all over the world.
    To make sure that when our disabled veterans travel 
overseas, they have accessibility and the kind of respect that 
they deserve, to make sure that people all around the world 
have access to places where they are currently excluded.
    You know personally, both of you do, the amazing stories of 
people with disabilities. When given a chance and given 
accessibility, they have made America a stronger nation and 
will make this a better world. I want the United States to be 
at the front of the table in talking about leading the world 
into the 21st century and into a new generation of thinking.
    We can build on the Americans with Disabilities Act. I am 
honored that former Senator Dole has become such a major 
spokesman in terms of pushing this forward. I am honored that 
the veterans groups have stepped up and said this means a lot 
to those who risked their lives for America and gave not only 
life, but limb many times. They want to see this done.
    So thank you, Senator Kerry. I know your busy schedule and 
commitment to other issues, but this is historic. And it is 
strongly bipartisan, as evidenced by the turnout today and by 
the first witnesses. I am honored to be part of putting it 
together with Senator McCain.
    Thank you.
    The Chairman. Thank you very much, Senator Durbin.
    Senator Harkin, if you would lead off, by matter of 
seniority, and Senator McCain.

                 STATEMENT OF HON. TOM HARKIN,
                     U.S. SENATOR FROM IOWA

    Senator Harkin. Good morning.
    First of all, I want to thank Chairman Kerry and the 
committee for holding this hearing, seeking input about the 
importance of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities, or CRPD, as it is known. And I appreciate the 
opportunity to testify on an issue that has been a central 
priority of mine since I first came to the Congress in 1974 and 
the Senate in 1984.
    Mr. Chairman, Senators of this committee, one of my 
greatest joys in the Senate has been my work over 30 years with 
Senators Dole and McCain, Senators Kennedy, Hatch, and many 
others on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
    I also saw so many people here that were instrumental in 
its passage and its implementation after it was passed.
    I would be remiss if I didn't recognize the former White 
House counsel Boyden Gray and all the great work he did in 
getting people together on this bill back in 1989 and 1990. 
Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who was so 
instrumental in helping to pass this bill and implementation 
afterward. Former Congressman Tony Coelho.
    All of them here who just were so instrumental. And I am 
glad you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, Lowell Weicker, who may not 
be here, but he was one of the most instrumental persons in 
pushing this idea of a national civil rights law covering 
people with disabilities.
    And last, there are so many here that I met when I came in 
that were here at the beginning and, as I said, worked so hard 
to get this passed and implemented, I don't have the time, I 
wouldn't take the time to try to mention them all, Mr. 
Chairman. But let me try to honor all of those who are sitting 
back here who have been so instrumental in the full 
implementation of ADA over the last 22 years by recognizing one 
person who is here and one spirit who is here.
    That is Yoshiko Dart who is here, and she always carries 
Justin Dart's old cowboy hat. So Justin Dart is here also. Oh, 
Marca Bristo has his hat, I guess. I thought Yoshiko did.
    [Laughter.]
    So, again, I just honor all those who are here who were 
part of this whole effort over all these years.
    As Senator Barrasso said, the ADA stands for a simple 
proposition, that disability is a natural part of the human 
experience and that all people with disabilities have a right 
to make choices, pursue meaningful careers, and participate 
fully in all aspects of society. Thanks to the ADA, our country 
is a more welcoming place not just for people with a variety of 
disabilities, but for everyone.
    Twenty-two years ago this month, President Bush gathered 
hundreds of Americans with disabilities on the White House lawn 
for the ADA signing ceremony. At that time, he noted--and 
listen to this exact quote from President Bush: ``This historic 
act is the world's first comprehensive declaration of equality 
for people with disabilities--the first. Its passage has made 
the United States the international leader on this human rights 
issue.''
    Well, thanks to the ADA and other U.S. laws, America has 
shown the rest of the world how to honor the basic human rights 
of children and adults with disabilities; how to integrate them 
into society; how to remove barriers to full participation in 
activities that most Americans take for granted.
    Our support for disability rights has inspired a global 
movement. Think about that. It has inspired a global movement 
that led the United Nations to adopt the CRPD. Our legal 
framework influenced the substance of the Convention and is 
informing its implementation in 116 countries that I have, 
Senator Durbin, and also the European Union who have signed and 
ratified the CRPD.
    I am very grateful for the long history of leadership on 
both sides of the aisle--Senator Dole, Senator McCain--going 
way back even before the ADA. I want to acknowledge the 
leadership and support of Senators Barrasso and Durbin, Moran, 
Coons, and Udall, all of whom have publicly expressed their 
strong support for ratification of the CRPD.
    I would also like to acknowledge the pro bono work of the 
Mayer Brown law firm and Carolyn Osolinik, who many of us 
remember was Senator Kennedy's chief aide when we passed the 
Americans with Disabilities Act back in 1990.
    By ratifying this Convention, the United States will be 
reaffirming our commitment to our citizens with disabilities. 
As has been said a couple of times by Senators on the dais, 
Americans with disabilities, including disabled veterans, 
should be able to live and travel, to study, and to work abroad 
with the same freedoms and access that they enjoy here in 
America.
    And as the state parties to the Convention come together to 
grapple with the best ways to make progress and remove 
barriers, we should be at the table with them, helping them to 
learn from our experience.
    The administration has submitted reservations, 
understandings, and declarations that make clear that U.S. 
ratification will not require any changes in U.S. law and will 
have no fiscal impact. No fiscal impact. But my hope is that 
U.S. ratification will have a moral impact.
    My hope is that it will send a signal to the rest of the 
world that it is not OK to leave a baby with Down syndrome on 
the side of the road to die. It is not OK to warehouse adults 
with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities in institutions, 
chained to the bars of a cell, when their only ``crime'' is 
having a disability.
    That it is not OK to refuse to educate children because 
they are blind or deaf or use a wheelchair. That it is not OK 
to prevent disabled people from voting, getting married, owning 
property, having children. It is not OK to rebuild 
infrastructures in Iraq and Afghanistan and Haiti or other war-
torn or disaster-stricken areas without improving the 
accessibility of the infrastructure at the same time.
    So I thank this committee for scheduling today's hearing. I 
commend you all for recognizing the long history of bipartisan 
support for disability rights in this country.
    I urge the committee to report favorably on the treaty and 
recommend that the Senate give its advice and consent to 
ratification prior to July the 26th of 2012, the 22nd 
anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    [The prepared statement of Senator Harkin follows:]

    Prepared Statement of Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman, U.S. Senate 
           Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

    Good Morning. I would like to thank Chairman Kerry and the 
committee for holding this hearing seeking input from others about the 
importance of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities or the ``CRPD.'' I appreciate this opportunity to testify 
today on an issue that has been a central priority for me since I was 
first elected to the Senate in 1984.
    Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Lugar, and members of the committee, 
one of my greatest joys in the Senate has been my work with Senators 
Dole, McCain, and others on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 
of 1990. The ADA stands for a simple proposition--that disability is a 
natural part of the human experience and that all people with 
disabilities have a right to make choices, pursue meaningful careers, 
and participate fully in all aspects of society.
    Thanks to the ADA, our country is a more welcoming place not just 
for people with a variety of disabilities, but for everyone.
    Twenty-two years ago this month, President Bush gathered hundreds 
of Americans with disabilities on the White House lawn for the ADA 
signing ceremony. At the time, he noted: ``This historic act is the 
world's first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with 
disabilities--the first. Its passage has made the United States the 
international leader on this human rights issue.''
    Thanks to the ADA and other U.S. laws, America has shown the rest 
of the world how to honor the basic human rights of children and adults 
with disabilities; how to integrate them into society; and how to 
remove barriers to their full participation in activities that most 
Americans take for granted. Our support for disability rights has 
inspired a global movement that led the United Nations to adopt the 
CRPD. Our legal framework influenced the substance of the Convention 
and is informing its implementation in the 117 countries that have 
signed and ratified the CRPD.
    I am very grateful for the long history of leadership of both 
Senators Dole and McCain on disability issues, going back to before the 
ADA. I also want to acknowledge the leadership and support of Senators 
Barrasso, Durbin, Moran, Coons, and Udall, all of whom have publicly 
expressed their strong support for ratification of the CRPD.
    By ratifying this Convention, the United States will be reaffirming 
our commitment to our citizens with disabilities. Americans with 
disabilities, including disabled veterans, should be able to live, 
travel, study and work abroad with the same freedoms and access that 
they enjoy in the United States. And as the state parties to the 
Convention come together to grapple with the best ways to make progress 
and remove barriers, we should be at the table with them helping them 
learn from our experience.
    The administration has submitted reservations, understandings and 
declarations that make clear that U.S. ratification of the CRPD will 
not require any change in U.S. law and will have no fiscal impact. My 
hope is that U.S. ratification of the CRPD will have a moral impact. My 
hope is that it will send a signal to the rest of the world that it is 
not okay to leave a baby with Down syndrome on the side of the road to 
die; not okay to warehouse adults with intellectual and psychiatric 
disabilities in institutions chained to the bars of a cell when their 
only ``crime'' is having a disability; not okay to refuse to educate 
children because they are blind or deaf or use a wheelchair; not okay 
to prevent disabled people from voting, getting married, owning 
property, or having children; not okay to rebuild infrastructures in 
Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, and other war-torn or disaster-stricken areas 
without improving the accessibility of the infrastructure at the same 
time.
    I thank this committee for scheduling today's hearing. I commend 
you for recognizing the long history of bipartisan support for 
disability rights in this county. And I urge the committee to report 
favorably on the treaty and recommend that the Senate give its advice 
and consent to ratification.

    The Chairman. Thank you very much, Senator Harkin. 
Appreciate that testimony.
    Senator McCain.

                 STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN McCAIN,
                   U.S. SENATOR FROM ARIZONA

    Senator McCain. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    And I, after hearing your eloquent statement and Dick's and 
John Barrasso's and Tom's, I am reminded of my beloved friend, 
Morris Udall, who once said everything that could possibly be 
said about this has been said, only not everyone has said it. 
So I will try to be brief in my remarks and spend--I am really 
here to read a statement by our beloved friend and former 
colleague and leader, Bob Dole.
    And so, but I also would like just to take a moment to 
thank our warriors here who have been with us for the last 22 
years not only in the passage of this legislation, but also in 
the long process of its implementation.
    I want to thank Dick Durbin. I want to thank you, my old 
friend, Senator Kerry, and John, and everybody who has been 
involved. And Senator Moran and Tom Udall and others.
    And this is an example that from time to time, we can 
engage in a bipartisan effort in this body.
    There are two people who are not here who I think are 
really here in many respects, and one is our old friend, Justin 
Dart, who we all know was one of the great leaders in this 
effort. And his beloved wife is here.
    And the other, of course, is my old friend and combatant, 
Ted Kennedy, who played an incredibly important role on this 
and other issues. I enjoyed working with him, and I enjoyed 
working against him.
    [Laughter.]
    But I think his spirit is here today because he did have 
the ability of bringing people together, as we all know.
    Tony Coelho and Boyden Gray and Dick Thornburgh are here. I 
would like to thank them as well.
    I would just like to make two quick points, Mr. Chairman. 
One is I am proud to be pro-life. This is a pro-life piece of 
resolution, in my view, because too often children, as Tom 
pointed out, with disabilities are never allowed to live.
    I would also like to point out that it is--finally, I would 
like to mention that it is not an accident that literally every 
veterans organization in this country supports this legislation 
because it is our veterans, many of whom are coming home as we 
speak, that needed this legislation. And I think that when you 
travel around the world and you see the conflicts around the 
world--I just came from Libya, where 30,000 of their citizens 
were wounded in the conflict that, thank God, has just been 
over. And so many of them with disabilities.
    So I would argue that this resolution, this treaty is 
probably more important today in the world perhaps than it has 
been in the past.
    With that, I would like to read a letter from Bob Dole, 
which in his own unique way is, I think, rather moving.

    ``Chairman Kerry, Ranking Member Lugar, and members of this 
committee, when I delivered my maiden speech on the Senate Floor on 
April 14, 1969, the anniversary of the day I was wounded in World War 
II, it was customary to speak about something in which you had a deep 
interest, and something about which you could offer some leadership. I 
chose to speak about a minority group, as I said then, the existence of 
which affects every person in our society, and the very fiber of our 
Nation.
    ``It was an exceptional group I joined during World War II, which 
no one joins by personal choice. It is a group that neither respects 
nor discriminates by age, sex, wealth, education, skin color, religious 
beliefs, political party, power, or prestige. That group, Americans 
with disabilities, has grown in size ever since. So, therefore, has the 
importance of maintaining access for people with disabilities to 
mainstream American life, whether it's access to a job, an education, 
or registering to vote.
    ``When we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, 
it was not only one of the proudest moments of my career, it was a 
remarkable bipartisan achievement that made an impact on millions of 
Americans. The simple goal was to foster independence and dignity, and 
its reasonable accommodations enabled Americans with disabilities to 
contribute more readily to this great country.
    ``Americans led the world in developing disability public policy 
and equality and, while there are places that still have no rights for 
people with disabilities, many countries have followed our lead. In 
1994, I wrote to the Secretary of State to ask that the United States 
include the status of people with disabilities in its annual report on 
human rights. To its credit, the State Department acted, and, since 
then, has included a profile on the rights of people with disabilities 
in each country in the world. Some of the news is good, but, in too 
many countries, people with disabilities remain subject to 
discrimination.
    ``The United States supported approval of the Convention on the 
Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in December 2006. On the 
anniversary of the ADA in 2009, the U.S. signed the CRPD. This landmark 
treaty requires countries around the world to affirm what are 
essentially core American values of equality, justice, and dignity. Now 
the package has been submitted to the Senate for your advice and 
consent. I want to express my personal support for U.S. ratification of 
the CRPD and to ask that you continue the proud American tradition of 
supporting the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities.
    ``U.S. ratification of the CRPD will improve physical, 
technological, and communication access outside the U.S., thereby 
helping to ensure that Americans--particularly, many thousands of 
disabled American veterans--have equal opportunities to live, work, and 
travel abroad. The treaty comes at no cost to the United States. In 
fact, it will create a new global market for accessibility goods. An 
active U.S. presence in implementation of global disability rights will 
promote the market for devices such as wheelchairs, smart phones, and 
other new technologies engineered, made, and sold by U.S. corporations.
    ``With the traditional reservations, understandings, and 
declarations that the Senate has adopted in the past, current U.S. law 
satisfies the requirements of the CRPD. The CRPD works to extend 
protections pioneered in the U.S. to the more than 1 billion people 
with disabilities throughout the world. This is an opportunity for the 
U.S. to join its allies--including Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, 
South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Germany--in continuing our 
historical leadership on disability rights.
    ``Passage of the ADA constituted a proud moment in U.S. history, 
when we joined together as a nation to stand up for a worthy cause. Now 
is the time to reaffirm the common goals of equality, access, and 
inclusion for Americans with disabilities--both when those affected are 
in the United States and outside of our country's borders. I urge you 
to support U.S. ratification of this important treaty.''

    Mr. Chairman, you know that there is nothing that Bob Dole 
would have wanted more than to be here before this committee 
today. You also know that he has had his challenges in the past 
recent months and years. I hope that all of us will respect 
this magnificent American who came and served his country, was 
grievously wounded. He and our dear, beloved Senator Inouye 
were in the same hospital.
    And this is one thing I think that we could do for Bob Dole 
that would make him exceedingly proud.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    [The prepared statement of Senator McCain follows:]

          Prepared Statement of Senator John McCain of Arizona

    Thank you for that introduction. I am pleased to come before the 
committee to offer my support for the Convention on the Rights of 
Persons with Disabilities and to be here on behalf of one of my closest 
friends, Bob Dole. Bob asked me to come before you and present his 
statement in support of this treaty. As you know, Bob has dedicated 
nearly his entire life to this country--through his military service 
and following that, many years in public service.
    Senator Durbin and I began discussing months ago how we can work 
together, in a bipartisan manner and build bipartisan support for 
ratification of this treaty. We have been working closely with Senators 
Moran, Barrasso, Coons, Tom Udall, and Harkin. The list of bipartisan 
supporters continues to grow.
    And there's a good reason that the list of supporters is expanding. 
Protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, ANY persons, is not 
a political issue. It is a human issue, regardless of where in the 
world a disabled person strives to live a normal, independent life 
where basic rights and accessibilities are available. Disability rights 
and protections have always been a bipartisan issue and ratifying this 
treaty should be no different.
    Ratifying this treaty will continue our global leadership to 
protect and recognize the rights of people living with disabilities 
that began almost 22 years ago with the enactment of the Americans with 
Disabilities Act. In fact, the 22d anniversary of the act is later this 
month.
    Some may question why the U.S. needs to join the 117 other 
countries that have already ratified this treaty.
    As I have traveled around the world to many countries and areas of 
conflict, I have seen firsthand the many members of our Armed Forces 
who have become disabled in their service to our country. I have also 
seen the countless numbers of victims in these areas of conflict that 
become disabled and must try to return to and assimilate into their own 
societies, few of which have anywhere near the basic protections and 
opportunities for independence that people living with disabilities 
have in our country. In many cultures children born with disabilities 
don't even have a chance. Ratifying this treaty affirms our leadership 
on disability rights and shows the rest of the world our leadership 
commitment continues.
    Further, every action that we have ever taken on disability policy 
has been bipartisan. Being able to live independently is a basic human 
dignity that we support and is a value that we can help advance 
internationally through ratification of this treaty.
    Many of you have served with Senator Dole and you know that he has 
been one of the true leaders on disability issues. And it is truly my 
honor to present his testimony in support of the Convention on the 
Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

    The Chairman. Well, thank you, Senator McCain.
    I think the testimony that you have given personally, but 
most importantly, that you have just shared with us from 
Senator Dole could not be more important and significant with 
respect to this.
    I would hope that all of our colleagues would read his 
letter. We will certainly distribute it to every colleague and 
hope that it can have that impact.
    I had a wonderful visit with him just a few months ago, and 
we reminisced about the efforts that we did together, I think 
it was in the late 1980s, when the Little League was barring 
young kids with disabilities from actually participating in 
Little League. And we created now all across America, there is 
a physically challenged Little League, formal Little League 
participation.
    So Bob Dole has played just a critical role, and he is a 
tremendous role model and example as a leader. So I would hope 
that people will, in fact, heed that, and we thank you.
    Senator McCain, I cannot help but comment how much, as your 
good friend--and you and I have been through a lot of things 
together--how much it either disturbs me or confounds me that 
you take as much pleasure from working against those you enjoy 
working with. So we have got to work this out.
    [Laughter.]
    Let us continue doing that. Thanks for being here with us.
    I know you are busy. So you are excused.
    We invite the first panel up. If we could have the 
Honorable Judith Heumann, SpecialAadviser for International 
Disability Rights at the Department of State. And Ms. Eve Hill, 
Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil 
Rights.
    I am at this point, with your permission, going to turn it 
over to Senator Durbin to chair for a while. And then I will be 
back because I do want to get some questions in with respect to 
some of these things.
    Thank you.
    Senator Durbin.
    Senator Durbin [presiding]. Thank you very much, Chairman 
Kerry, and we will proceed with the first panel.
    [Pause.]

     STATEMENT OF HON. JUDITH HEUMANN, SPECIAL ADVISER FOR 
  INTERNATIONAL DISABILITY RIGHTS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, 
                         WASHINGTON, DC

    Ms. Heumann. Thank you, Senator Durbin and members of the 
committee.
    And thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of 
ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities, which both President Obama and Secretary of State 
Clinton strongly endorse.
    Ratification of the Disabilities Convention by the United 
States would, as we have heard before, result in a shining 
moment in this Nation's enduring commitment to advancing and 
promoting disability rights both at home and abroad.
    I ask that my full statement be submitted for the record.
    Senator Durbin. Without objection.
    Ms. Heumann. As the special adviser for international 
disability rights at the State Department, I firmly believe 
ratification will help us to advance U.S. interests abroad.
    I grew up at a time when our country was just beginning to 
realize the value of ensuring equality for persons with 
disabilities. At that time, we had only begun the process of 
recognizing that societies are stronger when they respect and 
promote the dignity and equality and contributions of disabled 
individuals.
    However, as a child, I did not have the benefit of 
accessible communities, inclusive schools, or accessible 
transportation. I am 64. I did not attend school until I was 9. 
And when I applied for my first job as a teacher, I was 
initially denied my certification simply because I could not 
walk. This was the official reason.
    Today, thanks to strong legislation and decades of 
enforcement, such blatant forms of discrimination are no longer 
permissible in the United States. Unfortunately, the same 
cannot be said for the majority of the 1 billion disabled 
people around the world or Americans with disabilities who 
live, work, serve, retire, study, and travel abroad.
    In developing countries, it is estimated that 90 percent of 
children with disabilities do not attend school.
    Many disabled children are killed at birth simply because 
of their disability. Basic physical access of disabled people 
is still a dream in many countries.
    In many countries, it is unfathomable that a significantly 
disabled person like me would ever leave their home, much less 
have a government job, wish to board an international flight, 
and where government buildings, hotels, and even bathrooms are 
not accessible.
    Against this backdrop of exclusion and discrimination is 
the vision of what we have achieved in the United States. That 
vision inspired the international community to draft this 
Disabilities Convention. At its very core, the Convention seeks 
to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same rights 
as everyone else.
    The Disabilities Convention is animated by the principles 
underlying U.S. disabilities law--inclusion, respect for human 
dignity and individual autonomy, accessibility, and equal 
enjoyment of rights. It does not create new rights for disabled 
people, and no new legislation would be required to implement 
the Convention if ratified with the recommended, reservations, 
understandings, and declarations.
    Significantly, the United States would implement its 
obligations under existing law. Therefore, you may ask why 
should we bother to ratify? Simply put, ratification of the 
disabilities Convention will strengthen U.S. interests. It will 
promote tangible benefits for U.S. businesses and approximately 
54 million Americans with disabilities who wish to live, work, 
serve, retire, study, and travel abroad.
    Only by ratifying the Convention will we put ourselves in 
the best position to influence our international partners to 
enhance disability rights, especially in such key areas as 
education, accessibility, and employment. Improved standards 
abroad will open up the world to Americans with disabilities 
and their families.
    Though I take great pride in the U.S. record, it is, 
frankly, difficult to advance the interests of Americans with 
disabilities and others when we, as the United States, have not 
ratified the Convention. Failure to ratify deprives us of a 
crucial tool to secure concrete improvements, such as fewer 
architectural barriers and more accessible air travel, in 
international practice, improvements that will afford greater 
protections, opportunities, and benefits to the millions of 
U.S. citizens, civilians and veterans, with disabilities who 
currently face barriers abroad.
    Ratification would also be good for American business. By 
encouraging other countries to join and implement the 
Convention, we would also help to level the playing field for 
U.S. companies. A U.S. role in shaping international standards 
would afford U.S. businesses increased opportunities to export 
innovative products and technologies. As accessibility 
standards become more harmonized, the competitive edge 
increases for U.S. companies even further with the opening of 
markets.
    In sum, ratification will be a significant step in our 
longstanding bipartisan tradition of support for the rights of 
disabled people. It will provide the United States with a 
critical platform to secure better international disability 
standards and promote equality of individuals with 
disabilities, including Americans who travel or live abroad.
    Quite simply, ratification is good for America and good for 
Americans, both for its profound impact on our diplomatic 
leadership and for its tangible benefits to everyday Americans.
    Finally, in keeping with America's strong longstanding 
bipartisan tradition of support for the rights of persons with 
disabilities, ratification of the disabilities Convention is 
the right, smart, and just thing to do.
    Thank you again for the opportunity to testify, and I look 
forward to answering any questions you may have.
    [The prepared statement of Ms. Heumann follows:]

                  Prepared Statement of Judith Heumann

    Chairman Kerry, Ranking Member Lugar, and members of the committee, 
thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this morning to 
speak in support of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of 
Persons with Disabilities, which both the President and the Secretary 
of State strongly endorse. Ratification of the Disabilities Convention 
by the United States would be a shining moment in this Nation's 
enduring commitment to advancing and promoting disability rights both 
at home and abroad. I am privileged to have this opportunity to speak 
to you on behalf of the administration, drawing from my life-long 
personal and professional commitment to promoting the rights of persons 
with disabilities in the United States and abroad.
    As the Special Adviser for International Disability Rights at the 
U.S. Department of State, I firmly believe ratification will help us to 
advance our diplomacy abroad, enabling us to highlight how our advances 
have helped improve the lives of millions of disabled people and their 
family members. I grew up at a time when our country was just beginning 
to realize the value of ensuring the rights of persons with 
disabilities. Thanks to unstinting leadership from parents and disabled 
people, and the advocacy of many people, including Members of Congress 
and disabled veterans, we had begun the process of recognizing that our 
society should respect and promote the dignity, equality, and 
contributions of disabled individuals. However, as a child I did not 
have the benefit of accessible communities, inclusive schools, or 
accessible transportation. Without even simple curb cuts, I wheeled in 
the streets amongst oncoming traffic. I could not ride our buses or 
trains. I was not allowed to go to school until I was 9 years old, and 
then received poor quality education segregated from the rest of my 
peers. When I applied for my first job as a teacher, I was initially 
denied my certification simply because I could not walk.
    Today, I am proud to say that such blatant forms of discrimination 
are no longer permissible in our society. The United States has been a 
leader in this area. With strong legislation and effective enforcement 
honed over more than four decades of experience, Americans with 
disabilities are respected and included in our society to a degree 
unrivalled in our history. We can live, work, and travel with our 
fellow citizens, and we see Americans with disabilities serving at the 
highest levels of government and industry. Unfortunately, the same 
cannot be said for the majority of the 1 billion disabled people around 
the world, or Americans with disabilities, including veterans, who 
live, work, serve, retire, study, travel, and reside abroad. In 
developing countries it is estimated that 90 percent of children with 
disabilities do not attend school. Many disabled children are killed at 
birth simply because of their disability. I know from my own 
international work that basic physical access for disabled people is 
still a dream in many countries, and that enduring cultural stigmas 
force people with disabilities, who yearn to work and contribute to 
their families and societies, into abject poverty. I have also 
experienced firsthand the frustration of traveling in places where it 
is unfathomable that a significantly disabled person like me would ever 
leave their home, much less wish to board an international flight.
    Against this backdrop of exclusion and discrimination is the vision 
of progress that we have achieved in the United States, made real 
through the rule of law, which inspired the international community to 
draft the Disabilities Convention. At its core, the Convention seeks to 
ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same rights as everyone 
else and lead their lives as do other individuals, if given the same 
opportunities. As with the comprehensive network of U.S. Federal 
disability law, the Convention expresses the principles and goals of 
inclusion, respect for human dignity and individual autonomy, 
accessibility, and equal enjoyment of rights. Equality of opportunity 
and nondiscrimination are the primary principles permeating both the 
Convention and U.S. domestic disability law. They animate the important 
issues addressed by the Convention, including: political participation; 
access to justice; respect for home and the family; education; access 
to health care; employment; freedom of expression; and respect for 
individual autonomy including the freedom to make decisions about how a 
person wishes to live their life. By requiring equality of opportunity 
and reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities, the 
Convention is reflective of the principles of U.S. disability law, 
drawn from such core legislation as the Americans with Disabilities Act 
(ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities 
Education Act (IDEA). This principle of equality is of course enshrined 
in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States 
Constitution.
    Given that the Disabilities Convention is animated by the 
principles underlying U.S. disabilities law, and that it does not 
create new rights for disabled people, no new legislation would be 
required to implement the Convention if ratified with the recommended 
reservations, understandings, and declaration. Significantly, the 
United States would implement its obligations under existing law; the 
Convention would not give rise to any new individually enforceable 
rights. Therefore, you may ask why we should bother to ratify the 
Convention? Simply put, ratification of the Disabilities Convention 
will strengthen U.S. interests. It will promote tangible benefits for 
U.S. business and the approximately 50 million Americans with 
disabilities, including the 5.5 million American veterans with 
disabilities, who wish to live, work, serve, retire, study, travel, and 
reside abroad. By ratifying this Convention we will be putting 
ourselves in a position to assist our international partners to do as 
much as we have done domestically to enhance disability rights.
    Prior to the adoption of the Convention, fewer than 50 countries 
around the world had adopted some form of nondiscrimination legislation 
to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Ratification of the 
Convention by over 114 countries has since led to a dramatic increase 
in international interest in addressing the rights of persons with 
disabilities. However, overall standards of protection around the world 
typically remain subpar, as does enforcement of the protections that do 
exist. Such conditions limit opportunities abroad for Americans with 
disabilities. U.S citizens with disabilities frequently face barriers 
when they travel, conduct business, study, serve, reside, or retire 
overseas. With our extensive domestic experience in promoting equality 
and inclusion of persons with disabilities, the United States is 
uniquely positioned to help interested countries understand how to 
effectively comply with their obligations under the Convention. Indeed, 
provision of such technical assistance and knowledge sharing forms an 
important part of my work with the Department of State. However, the 
fact that we have yet to ratify the Disabilities Convention is 
frequently raised by foreign officials, and deflects from what should 
be center stage: how their own record of promoting disability rights 
could be improved. Though I take great pride in the U.S. record, it is 
frankly difficult to make best use of the ``bully pulpit'' to challenge 
disability rights violations on behalf of Americans with disabilities 
and others, when we have not ratified the Convention. Ratification 
would give the United States legitimacy and a platform from which to 
push for the adoption and implementation of the Convention's standards 
in other countries. This in turn will likely result in concrete 
improvements (such as fewer architectural barriers and accessible air 
travel) in those nations that bring their national laws into 
compliance, thus affording greater protections, opportunities, and 
benefits to the millions of U.S. citizens with disabilities who 
currently face barriers abroad.
    Our failure to ratify has also undermined our advocacy for persons 
with disabilities in multilateral and regional fora, where ratification 
of the Convention has become a de-facto prerequisite for meaningful 
engagement in discussions on promotion of disability rights. For 
example, by ratifying we would be able to amplify our voice in the 
Disabilities Convention's Conference of States Parties, to which the 
United States sends delegations of disability rights experts but 
currently only as an observer. This severely curtails the role that the 
United States can play in such meetings, particularly as more countries 
ratify. By joining the 114 other States Parties to the Convention, we 
could help shape the international disability agenda by taking a more 
prominent role in future Conferences, shaping and leading Conference 
meetings and panel discussions and more actively contributing to the 
international disability rights dialogue. We will be a leading force in 
the drive to both improve lives and increase understanding and 
cooperation among States, as well as to impact the development of 
international standards on accessibility. Disability diplomacy will 
have a positive effect on overall bilateral and regional diplomacy of 
the United States, by allowing us to leverage the shared value of 
disability rights to promote dialogue on other issues of importance to 
U.S. foreign policy. We have found that inclusion of disability rights 
in the work of the State Department amplifies our ability to achieve 
our broader foreign policy objectives. However, this work is unduly 
hampered by our not having a seat at the table as a State Party.
    Ratification would also be good for American business. By 
encouraging other countries to join and implement the Convention, we 
would also help level the playing field to the benefit of U.S. 
companies. It would enhance the competitive edge for our companies 
whose operations and hiring already meet accessibility requirements. 
Guiding and encouraging improved disability standards abroad would also 
afford U.S. businesses increased opportunities to export innovative 
products and technologies (such as electronic wheelchairs and other 
mobility devices, as well as accessible computers and electronics), 
thereby potentially stimulating job creation at home. As accessibility 
standards become more harmonized--a business objective that the United 
States can more credibly support if it becomes a State Party--the 
competitive edge increases for U.S. companies even further with the 
opening of markets.
    As I travel and meet disabled people from around the world, I am 
often reminded of how far we have come in the United States over the 
course of my lifetime, and how far so many countries have yet to go in 
ensuring that persons with disabilities are full and equal members of 
their societies. I also meet Americans with disabilities and their 
family members, who talk of the struggles they have faced abroad to 
live, work, and study with dignity and respect. Just as the ADA and 
related laws have become the gold standard for domestic disabilities 
legislation, U.S. ratification of the Disabilities Convention would 
represent a paradigm shift in the international treatment of persons 
with disabilities. The treaty is anchored in the overarching principles 
of inclusion, equality, and nondiscrimination that Americans already 
value at home. Ratification would serve both to underscore the enduring 
U.S. commitment to disability rights and to enhance the ability of the 
United States to promote these rights overseas. U.S. ratification would 
better position the United States to exercise its leadership role to 
guide and encourage other countries to ratify and implement the 
Convention. Leading by example, in what we do and what we say, is a 
hallmark of America's principles and policies. Any opportunity that we 
have to positively influence the practice of other countries in 
respecting the rights of persons with disabilities helps to create a 
world in which Americans with disabilities can promote American values 
by pursuing travel, work and study abroad unhindered by the barriers 
they currently face. Such opportunities can only be enhanced by our 
ratification of the Disabilities Convention.
    In sum, ratification is good for America and good for Americans. It 
will provide the United States with a critical platform from which to 
urge other countries to improve equality of individuals with 
disabilities, including Americans who travel or live abroad, and 
including children with disabilities, whose plight is particularly 
neglected in many parts of the world. The transformation which paved 
the way in the United States for children with disabilities to grow up 
with their families, go to school, and live as full participants in 
society has simply not taken place in much of the rest of the world. To 
promote the rights of individuals with disabilities overseas more 
effectively, the United States can use its ratification of the 
Convention as a vehicle to encourage, guide, pressure, and persuade 
other States Parties to implement better disability standards and 
provide greater disability rights protection in their countries, 
including to Americans. Ratification is a win-win, as protections in 
the United States would not need to be changed, and joining would not 
affect U.S. sovereignty. Ratification would open up opportunities for 
U.S. citizens, organizations, and businesses abroad, including our 
disabled youth, who rightly expect to be full participants in shaping 
our world's future.
    Ratification of the Disabilities Convention would mark a momentous 
step toward the protection and advancement of the rights of persons 
with disabilities wherever they may live. It is a significant step for 
both its profound impact on our diplomatic leadership and for its 
tangible benefits to everyday Americans. Finally, in keeping with 
America's longstanding bipartisan tradition of support for the rights 
of disabled people, ratification of the Disabilities Convention is the 
right and just thing to do.

    Senator Durbin. Thank you, Ms. Heumann.
    Eve Hill is the Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney 
General for Civil Rights in the Department of Justice.
    Please proceed.

   STATEMENT OF EVE HILL, SENIOR COUNSELOR TO THE ASSISTANT 
ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 
                         WASHINGTON, DC

    Ms. Hill. Good morning, Senator Durbin, Ranking Member 
Lugar, other members of the committee.
    I am very pleased to be here today. Thank you for holding 
this hearing on the United States ratification of the 
Disabilities Convention.
    I would ask that my full statement be submitted for the 
record.
    I am here to speak to the relationship between the 
Disabilities Convention and our American disability rights 
laws, which served, to a great extent, as the inspiration and 
model for the Convention.
    We in the United States are world leaders in disability 
rights. We have developed a panoply of American laws that 
protect the rights of people with disabilities to a greater 
extent than any other country in the globe. Where many other 
countries approach disability rights from an aspirational 
vantage, we match our legislation with effective enforcement 
mechanisms that have led to notable changes in our society.
    Curb cuts, ramps, parking spaces, American sign language 
interpreters, service animals--these are just a few of the 
groundbreaking changes that we have come to take for granted in 
this country. But they are not available when Americans travel, 
study, work, or learn overseas.
    Federal laws address disability rights discrimination in a 
variety of areas. The Americans with Disabilities Act--ADA-- 
addresses disability nondiscrimination obligations of State and 
local government entities, and of private entities, including 
stores, restaurants, and other providers of goods and services. 
The ADA also prohibits discrimination in employment.
    In addition, our Federal Government has been committed to 
disability rights in its own programs and services, as well as 
those it funds, for decades. We implement domestic disability 
rights laws through a variety of means, including education and 
guidance, supporting voluntary compliance, mediation, and 
litigation. These implementation efforts are driven by domestic 
law and practice and would not change with the ratification of 
the Disabilities Convention. Therefore, ratifying the 
Convention, as proposed, will not require new legislation or 
create new rights.
    The administration has proposed that the Senate consider a 
package of three Reservations, five Understandings, and one 
Declaration that will allow the United States to comply with 
the Convention without any changes to U.S. law. These are 
detailed in the ratification package, but I would like to speak 
to three of them today.
    First, the package includes a federalism reservation, 
similar to the federalism reservations that were taken with the 
ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and 
Political Rights--ICCPR--and the Convention on the Elimination 
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination--CERD. The federalism 
reservation would limit the obligations of the United States 
under the Convention in areas covered by State and local 
government jurisdiction to measures appropriate to our Federal 
system.
    It would, thus, maintain the current balance and allocation 
of authority between the Federal Government and the 50 States. 
While we have a network of Federal disability laws, some treaty 
articles primarily implicate State laws, such as Article 12, 
which address guardianship, and Article 14, which addresses 
civil commitment.
    In most cases, State and local laws on these issues meet or 
exceed the requirements of the Convention. But in some issues 
governed by State law, such as legal capacity, some State and 
local protections may be less robust than the Convention. In 
these cases, the federalism reservation would preserve the 
existing balance of authority between the Federal Government 
and the States.
    I would also like to underscore the recommendation for a 
reservation on private conduct. This is similar to a 
reservation taken in treaties already ratified, such as the 
ICCPR and CERD. The private conduct reservation ensures that 
regulation of private parties under the Convention, including 
individuals, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations, is 
coextensive with such regulation under current domestic law.
    U.S. law extensively governs some areas of nongovernmental 
activity, such as disability discrimination by public 
accommodations. At the same, the U.S. Constitution and laws 
recognize a zone of private activity that is not governed by 
Federal or State government and, in some cases, expressly 
enjoys constitutional protection. This important reservation, 
therefore, would limit U.S. treaty obligations regarding 
private conduct to be coextensive with such regulation under 
the Constitution and laws of the United States.
    Third, the proposed non-self-executing declaration would 
make it clear that the Convention could not be directly 
enforced by U.S. courts and would not give rise to individually 
enforceable rights. This is consistent with our practice under 
treaties on civil and political rights, racial discrimination, 
and torture.
    With this Declaration and the other Reservations and 
Understandings, the United States would be able to implement 
the Convention using the existing network of laws and Federal 
enforcement mechanisms that guarantee nondiscrimination to 
Americans with disabilities at home. As such, no new 
legislation would be required to ratify the Disabilities 
Convention.
    With the ratification of the Disabilities Convention, we 
will greatly enhance our ability to influence other countries 
to move toward adopting and implementing effective standards 
that are consistent with those that we have established at 
home. As a result, we hope that American veterans, business 
people, retirees, students, tourists, military, and others will 
be able to enjoy the same levels of accessibility and 
nondiscrimination protections overseas that they currently 
benefit from in the United States.
    Protection of disability rights laws has historically been 
grounded in bipartisan support, and the principles anchoring 
the Convention find clear expression in our own domestic law. 
We, therefore, urge this committee to give prompt and favorable 
consideration to the Disabilities Convention and that the full 
Senate give its advice and consent to ratification, subject to 
the proposed Reservations, Understandings, and Declarations.
    Thank you for inviting me today, and I look forward to your 
questions.
    [The prepared statement of Ms. Hill follows:]

                     Prepared Statement of Eve Hill

    Good morning, Chairman Kerry, Ranking Member Lugar, and members of 
the Committee. Thank you for holding this hearing about the United 
States ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons 
with Disabilities (Disabilities Convention). I am here today to speak 
to the relationship between the Disabilities Convention and our 
American disability-rights laws, which served, to a great extent, as 
the inspiration and model for the Disabilities Convention.
    We in the United States are world leaders in the effort to protect 
the rights of persons with disabilities. Our early initiatives to 
protect disability rights and the subsequent decades-long effort to 
enhance disability rights have resulted in a panoply of American laws 
that protect the rights of persons with disabilities to a greater 
extent than any other country on the globe. Where many other countries 
approach disability rights from an aspirational vantage, we match our 
legislation with concrete, effective enforcement mechanisms that have 
led to visible, notable changes in our society in our lifetimes. Curb 
cuts, ramps, accessible parking spaces, American Sign Language 
interpreters, service animals--these are just a few of the 
groundbreaking changes that have swept through our society thanks to 
our vigorous enforcement of disability-rights laws.
    While we in the United States too often take the tremendous 
advances in disability rights for granted, much work remains to be done 
and the Department of Justice and other Federal agencies are actively 
addressing discrimination on the basis of disability arising in a 
variety of arenas. These implementation efforts are driven by domestic 
law and practice and this approach would not change with the 
ratification of the Disabilities Convention. The Americans with 
Disabilities Act (ADA) addresses the disability nondiscrimination 
obligations of State and local governmental entities, including 
educational institutions, local government offices, parks, libraries, 
hospitals, nursing homes, and more, and by private entities, including 
stores, restaurants, recreational facilities, banks, and other 
providers of goods and services. The ADA also prohibits disability 
discrimination by employers with 15 or more employees. Our disability-
rights laws affect more than 6 million businesses and nonprofit 
agencies, 80,000 units of State and local government, and 54 million 
people with disabilities. In addition, our Federal government has been 
committed to disability rights in its own programs and services, as 
well as those it funds, for decades through the Rehabilitation Act of 
1973, the Architectural Barriers Act, and many other Federal laws.
    Along with the Department of Justice, a panoply of other Federal 
agencies and entities are engaged in efforts to address discrimination 
on the basis of disability, including the Department of Housing and 
Urban Development, the Department of Education, the Department of 
Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services, the 
Department of Transportation, the Federal Communications Commission, 
the U.S. Access Board, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 
(EEOC), each of which takes on significant responsibilities for the 
enforcement of our domestic disability-rights laws.
    The Disabilities Convention is firmly grounded in, and animated by, 
the principles underlying U.S. disabilities laws, including the 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the ADA, and the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act. Therefore, ratifying the Disabilities 
Convention will not require new legislation and will not create any new 
rights, so long as it moves forward with the recommended Reservations, 
Understandings, and Declaration (or RUDs). The Convention was finalized 
in December 2006 after several years of drafting and negotiations, 
during which a U.S. delegation played an active role and joined in the 
consensus adoption of the Convention. The influence of U.S. disability 
law on the Disabilities Convention is apparent in the way the 
Convention mirrors our robust and well-developed U.S. disability-rights 
legislation. The Disabilities Convention follows the core principles of 
U.S. disability-rights laws--equality of treatment and 
nondiscrimination, with an emphasis throughout the Convention of rights 
provided ``on an equal basis with others.'' It incorporates concepts 
central to U.S. disability-rights law, such as independent living, 
inclusive education, and reasonable accommodation, limited, as it is in 
U.S. law, by the qualification that an accommodation need not be made 
if it entails undue burden or expense.
    The administration has proposed that the Senate consider a package 
of three Reservations, five Understandings, and one Declaration that 
will allow the United States to be in full compliance with the 
Convention without any changes to U.S. law. These are detailed in the 
transmittal package, but I would like to speak to three of them today.
    First, the package includes a federalism reservation, similar to 
the federalism RUDs that were taken with the ratification of the 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the 
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 
(CERD). This federalism reservation would limit the obligations of the 
United States in areas covered by State and local government 
jurisdiction to measures appropriate to the Federal system, maintaining 
the current allocation of authority between the Federal Government and 
the 50 States. While we have a significant network of Federal 
disability laws, some treaty articles would be primarily implemented 
under State laws, such as Article 12, which addresses guardianship, and 
Article 14, which addresses civil commitment. In most cases, State and 
local laws and practices meet or exceed the requirements of Federal law 
and thus the Convention. In instances governed primarily by State law 
where some State and local protections may be less robust than the 
Convention would require, such as regarding Article 12(4), which 
addresses safeguards in determinations of legal capacity, the 
federalism reservation would preserve the existing balance of authority 
between the Federal Government and the States. As we have observed, led 
by the advances at the Federal level, the dominant trend in State and 
local disability-rights laws has been toward improvement and 
modernization. Thus, while the adoption of a federalism reservation 
will allow us to adopt the Disabilities Convention without any new 
legislation, it in no way will impede us from continuing forward 
progress in disability rights protection.
    I would also like to underscore the recommended reservation on 
private conduct. Similar to a reservation taken in treaties already 
ratified, such as the ICCPR and CERD, the private-conduct reservation 
is intended to ensure that regulation of the conduct of private parties 
under the Convention, including businesses and nongovernmental 
organizations, is coextensive with such regulation under existing 
domestic law. United States law extensively governs significant areas 
of nongovernmental activity, such as disability discrimination by 
public accommodations, transport carriers, communications networks, and 
employers. At the same time, the U.S. Constitution and laws recognize a 
zone of private activity that is not extensively governed by Federal or 
State government, and, in some cases, expressly enjoys constitutional 
protection. This important reservation, therefore, would limit the 
treaty obligations undertaken by the United States respecting 
regulation of private conduct to be coextensive with such regulation 
under the Constitution and domestic laws of the United States. As the 
EEOC has separately confirmed to the committee, with the proposed RUD 
package, the United States will rely on existing law to fully comply 
with the Disabilities Convention. (See the attached letter from the 
EEOC.)
    Third, I also would like to address the proposed non-self-executing 
Declaration which would make it clear that the Convention could not be 
directly enforced by U.S. courts and would not give rise to 
individually enforceable rights. This is consistent with our treaty 
practice under the ICCPR, CERD, and the Convention Against Torture. 
With this Declaration and the other Reservations and Understandings, 
the United States would be able to implement its obligations under the 
Disabilities Convention using the existing network of laws and Federal 
enforcement machinery that afford protection and guarantees of 
nondiscrimination to persons with disabilities. As such, no new 
legislation would be required to ratify and implement the Convention.
    With the ratification of the Disabilities Convention, we will 
greatly enhance our capacity to influence other countries to move 
toward the vigorous, effective standards we have set at home. In turn, 
as other countries move forward, American veterans, business people, 
retirees, students, tourists, Active-Duty military, and others will be 
able to enjoy the same kinds of accessibility and nondiscrimination 
overseas that they currently enjoy in the United States. Thus, with the 
ratification of the Disabilities Convention, we will level the playing 
field for American businesses that are already complying with 
accessibility standards and provide new opportunities for the export of 
accessible technology.
    Protection of the rights of persons with disabilities has 
historically been grounded in bipartisan support and the principles 
anchoring the Convention find clear expression in our own domestic law. 
We therefore urge that this committee give prompt and favorable 
consideration to this Convention, and that the full Senate give its 
advice and consent to its ratification, subject to the administration's 
proposed reservations, understandings, and declaration.
                                 ______
                                 
              U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
                                Washington, DC, September 19, 2011.

Re Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Hon. John F. Kerry,
Chairman,
Hon. Richard G. Lugar,
Ranking Member,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
Washington, DC.
    Dear Chairman Kerry and Ranking Member Lugar: We are writing to 
support the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons 
with Disabilities (``Convention''), subject to the reservations, 
understandings, and declaration (``RUDs'') described in the Executive 
Branch's transmittal package. We appreciate this opportunity to express 
our views concerning the Convention.
    Created by the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal 
Employment Opportunity Commission (``EEOC'' or ``Commission'') is a 
bipartisan body whose five members are appointed by the President and 
confirmed by the Senate. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal 
laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, 
sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, and genetic 
information. The EEOC plays a central role in enforcing the employment 
provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Genetic 
Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and the Rehabilitation Act, 
and has recently issued bi-partisan final regulations for the ADA 
Amendments Act of2008. As the United States Congress recognized in 
enacting the ADA, anti-discrimination protection on the basis of 
disability benefits society as a whole by integrating people with 
disabilities into the workplace, and we believe that it works well for 
both people with disabilities and employers.
    In requiring equal treatment for persons with disabilities, the 
Convention is anchored in the core concepts of U.S. civil rights law, 
which rejects stereotypes about the limitations of persons with 
disabilities and instead emphasizes the need for individualized 
assessment of a job applicant's or worker's qualifications and 
abilities. The Convention, like the federal disability laws, including 
those enforced by the EEOC, promotes inclusion, respect for human 
dignity, and accessibility.
    The EEOC does not usually take positions on international 
Conventions. However, we believe that our assessment of the Convention 
and the RUDs may be of utility to the Committee on Foreign Affairs as 
it considers ratification. Ratification of the Convention will benefit 
persons with disabilities in the United States and worldwide by 
promoting the extension of the U.S.'s innovative and precedent-setting 
approach to accommodating persons with disabilities to foreign 
countries. It will help lead to greater protections and benefits for 
the millions of U.S. citizens with disabilities who travel, conduct 
business, study, or reside overseas, including American veterans. 
Additionally, ratification will benefit American businesses by leveling 
the playing field and encouraging countries around the world to 
harmonize their standards with the Convention (U.S. standards meet or 
exceed those of the Convention). Finally, ratification will provide the 
United States--an historic leader on disability rights issues--with an 
enhanced opportunity to share its interpretations of disability law and 
its technical expertise regarding accommodations for persons with 
disabilities with foreign governments.
    As the Executive Branch's transmittal package has concluded, the 
United States will rely on existing law to comply with the Convention, 
including its employment-related provisions, as modified by the 
recommended RUDs. The Commission therefore has no intention to change 
the way it currently enforces the ADA, GINA, and the Rehabilitation 
Act. indeed, the Convention's employment-related provisions and 
accompanying RUDs are squarely anchored in the principles of U.S. 
disability law, including the statutes that EEOC enforces. Similarly, 
the treaty transmittal package recommends a federalism reservation to 
make clear that ratification would not require changes in the Jaws of 
the fifty states, including state employment non-discrimination laws, 
and would impose no burden on state legislatures.
    Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We hope you 
find our assessment of the Convention and the RUDs to be useful as the 
Committee on Foreign Affairs considers ratification.
            Sincerely,
                                   Jacqueline A. Berrien,
                                           Chair.
                                   Stuart J. Ishimaru,
                                           Commissioner.
                                   Constance S. Barker,
                                           Commissioner.
                                   Chai R. Feldblum,
                                           Commissioner.
                                   Victoria A. Lipnic,
                                           Commissioner.

    Senator Durbin. Thank you, Ms. Hill.
    Before proceeding with a couple questions for each of you, 
I would like to again acknowledge two people and a third who 
has not been acknowledged. First, Tony Coelho, who was my 
colleague in the U.S. House of Representatives, a leader on 
disability issues from the start. And Tony, thank you for your 
leadership in bringing us here today.
    My former colleague, Steve Barlett from Texas, who joins us 
and I know has been a strong supporter of this effort. Thank 
you so much.
    And if you will give me some home State privilege here, I 
am so proud of Marca Bristo. She is my ``shero'' when it comes 
to disability issues in the State of Illinois and nationally. 
And Marca, thank you for all that you have done. You are just 
the very best.
    So let us address a couple issues head on. What we hear 
about when we open our e-mail on this subject is the question 
of children's education. You have raised the point, Ms. 
Heumann, that with this, with the passage of this Convention, 
that we are opening up educational opportunities for disabled 
children in many places around the world where they are 
currently denied.
    The critics of this Convention argue that we are limiting 
educational opportunities for American children, particularly 
when it comes to home schooling. So I would like to ask you and 
Ms. Hill to address that issue head on.
    Ms. Heumann. Well, I would like to state that we believe 
that there will be no changes to the ability of families to 
home school their children. What is very important to 
understand is, when I mentioned in my earlier statement that 90 
percent of disabled children are not able to attend school 
overseas, we want the United States to be able to lead as an 
example of what we have done since the development and 
implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education 
Act when, in 1975, 1 million disabled children in this country 
were not attending school.
    Today, disabled children are in school. Parents have 
significant rights, and play a very important role in the 
education of their children. We want our laws to be able to be 
a beacon for parents and governments and civil society overseas 
so they can learn what it is that we have so successfully done, 
which is resulting in more students graduating from high 
school, and students with disabilities going to the 
universities. And now, many of them in the room today wishing 
to work and live and travel abroad.
    Ms. Hill. I would add that by its terms, the treaty does 
not proceed to undermine the rights of either individual 
parents or schools to change the requirements for home 
schooling. The Convention doesn't change the ways in U.S. law 
governing parental authorities, which is a matter for the 
States, and that would be supported by the federalism 
reservation that I mentioned before that will not take this 
down to the State level.
    And where not regulated by State law, that is an individual 
decision, again limited by the private action reservation that 
I mentioned earlier as well.
    Senator Durbin. So, Ms. Hill, let me follow through on 
another aspect of this, and the question is whether or not this 
new Convention would create any rights of enforcement or legal 
rights in courts for American citizens to enforce the 
provisions of this Convention. Could you address that?
    Ms. Hill. It does not. The non-self-executing declaration 
makes clear that the Convention's requirements cannot be 
enforced in U.S. courts and do not provide individual rights of 
action.
    Senator Durbin. Your testimony notes that the panoply of 
Federal agencies that play a role in enforcing already existing 
U.S. laws ensure access, inclusion, and opportunity include the 
Department of Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans 
Affairs, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
    Our country's existing legal framework for protecting those 
with disabilities is the best in the world and it has been very 
effective. By ratifying the treaty, would the United States be 
required to change its current legal framework for protecting 
the rights of those with disabilities?
    Ms. Hill. It will not. Again, the federalism reservation 
makes clear that the Federal level is responsible for 
implementation and that the limits of our current federalism 
system reduce the ability to carry those obligations through to 
any State level.
    In addition, the limitations recognizing our zones of 
private conduct prevent further extension into those areas.
    Senator Durbin. A witness on another panel asserts that the 
treaty will violate principles of American sovereignty and 
liberty. He asserts that if the United States ratifies this 
treaty, our ability to have absolute freedom of choice 
concerning public policy on the subject will be extinguished, 
in his words.
    Do you agree with this assertion that ratifying the treaty 
will cede U.S. sovereignty to an international body, or is 
there any aspect of this argument that you would find 
compelling?
    Ms. Hill. I do not agree at all with that assertion. The 
body created by the Convention is a committee that is 
nonbinding on state parties, that can make recommendations, 
that can make suggestions, and that can make its opinions 
known. But we have no obligation to follow those 
recommendations, and they are completely nonbinding on the 
United States.
    Senator Durbin. Thank you.
    Senator Lugar.
    Senator Lugar. Let me ask either of the distinguished 
witnesses, how is the committee to deal with the fact that the 
Cabinet officers of many other departments of our Government 
might assert that they have an interest in this, quite apart 
from various other committees of the Senate? It is a wide-
ranging treaty. We are having this in the Foreign Relations 
Committee.
    But as you advocate on behalf of advice and consent, are 
you dealing with other committees, with other branches of the 
Cabinet or the Government so that we understand that we are all 
on the same page?
    Ms. Heumann. Thank you very much for the question, Senator.
    The process that the Government undertook in developing 
this package was quite exhaustive and involved 16 other Federal 
agencies. It was a year and a half process.
    So all of the heads of these governmental agencies and 
their staff did a very thorough review of the provisions that 
are part of the Convention and how it pertains to U.S. law. So 
I believe that we have thoroughly done what you have requested 
us to do and that we believe that this committee is the 
appropriate committee for jurisdiction because of the fact that 
it is a treaty.
    Senator Lugar. Let me ask, can you give us some idea of the 
members of the Convention--or other countries who have ratified 
the Convention? I am not asking for an entire encyclopedia. But 
are there countries in Europe, in Africa, in Latin America? 
Give us some idea of the range of how many countries already 
are involved in this situation that you are advocating that we 
join.
    Ms. Heumann. So, as you may be aware, there are, as of 
today, 116 countries that have ratified, plus the U.N. The 
committee itself is made up of many very recognized, 
prestigious, significantly disabled individuals who in some 
cases have actually traveled and studied in the United States.
    As an example, there is a woman named Professor Degener, 
who is a woman who was born without arms when her mother took 
thalidomide, experienced various forms of discrimination in 
Germany and got her LLM here at the United States at UC-
Berkeley. She is a noted attorney and scholar, and she is an 
indication of the type of person.
    The people on the committee themselves are knowledgeable 
about disability. As I said, many have personal experience. 
They also understand the importance of good law and good 
jurisprudence.
    And what they are trying to do is to be able to help 
advance, working collaboratively with governments, many of 
whom, as we have said previously, want to be doing the right 
thing but have very limited knowledge and experience about how 
to develop good laws in areas of accessibility or education, 
have little information about how to implement those laws.
    The United States has great experience in this area. Our 
ability to be able to sit at the table and help advance this 
and the role that the committee can play we think is very 
advantageous.
    Senator Lugar. So, in fact, the committee or sort of the 
governing instance in this case is giving advice to governments 
in 118 countries about ways in which they might be more humane 
and more thoughtful to disabled people, but the committee is 
not able to enforce this. In other words, this is an advisory 
function, essentially----
    Ms. Heumann. Exactly, Senator.
    Senator Lugar [continuing]. Which is the sharing of 
experience. Is that your idea of the nature of the Convention, 
or is that too narrow a view?
    Ms. Heumann. No, the committee is an advisory body. The 
committee's expertise is to, as I have been saying, help 
facilitate advancement. They will make recommendations, for 
example. We believe they are going to be discussing issues of 
accessibility with the committee in the future, in the near 
future.
    And therefore, again, the importance of our being able to 
play a role in helping to explain U.S. standards, how our 
standards have been developed, the effectiveness of 
implementation of those standards, the changes those standards 
have made in the United States and can make abroad we believe 
is very important.
    Senator Lugar. Let me just ask hypothetically, has the 
committee been active in Russia, China, or--to take an instance 
in Africa--Kenya, or in Brazil? In other words, have they made 
recommendations, and have they been accepted? What has been the 
progress in any of these countries?
    Ms. Heumann. Sir, as you know, the Convention itself is 
relatively new. The committee has thus far received three 
reports. The way the process goes is once a country has 
ratified, it will submit a report 2 years later.
    China actually, I think, has now submitted its report, and 
it is going to be under review in the fall. And I think this is 
a report that we would like to also be paying close attention 
to, and our ability to be a member of the body--in ratifying, 
it will enable us to seek to have a position on this committee 
in the future.
    Senator Lugar. Well, when you receive this report from 
China, it will--I suppose the Chinese will outline ways they 
are helpful to handicapped persons is that thing. Then the 
committee takes a look at this report and says how about this 
or this or this? Is this the way the conversation is likely to 
work?
    Ms. Heumann. The committee will gather. It will review the 
report. It will put forth a report on recommendations that it 
has for the governments. One interesting aspect that is going 
on right now also is that civil societies in many of these 
countries are also, as you know very well, Senator Lugar, 
developing something called shadow reports.
    I think what is particularly important about shadow 
reports, which are being developed by civil societies around 
the world, is that in many countries, the voices of disabled 
people have not really been heard. They have not been 
organized. They have not been knowledgeable about how, in fact, 
to submit such a report.
    So I think we are seeing the committee playing a critical 
role in articulating what their concerns will be, 
recommendations that they will make, and also the voices of 
civil society that are coming behind the government's report to 
say what they think about the report.
    Senator Lugar. Well, thank you.
    Hopefully, maybe over the Internet, some of these shadow 
reports might be found, and there could be some worldwide 
communication of that.
    Ms. Heumann. I am sure that the shadow reports are 
available, Mr. Senator.
    Senator Lugar. Thank you.
    Senator Durbin. Senator Menendez.
    Senator Menendez. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    The transmittal package from the administration states that 
no new legislation would be required to ratify and implement 
the Convention. There are about 50 articles in the Convention 
that cover a broad range of topics, including health, 
education, work and employment, and so on. Is the 
administration confident that there are not any gaps in 
compliance if the United States becomes a party to the 
Convention?
    Ms. Hill. We are confident that to the extent that there 
are any gaps, they are addressed by the Reservations, 
Understandings, and Declaration. So, for example, if State law, 
which is a traditional area left to the States, were in some 
case less than what the Convention would require, the 
federalism reservation would make clear that the Convention's 
requirements did not extend to the State law.
    This may lead some to advocate with States to say you may 
want to consider moving your State law in this direction, but 
there would be no binding effect on that. Again, the non-self-
executing declaration would make clear that in the U.N. 
Disabilities Convention, even if someone believed that it 
didn't--that our compliance did not meet the standard set out 
by the Convention, there would be no binding authority to tell 
us to tell us to change it. It would simply be recommendations.
    And we, of course, are always open to learning new ideas 
from other countries. So there is no way. There is no 
enforcement way for the Convention to force us to change new 
laws. We are confident that after substantial review by a 
number of Federal agencies that any gaps in our compliance with 
the U.N. Disabilities Convention would be protected by the RUDs 
and that any gaps are very, very minor and that we are by far 
the leaders in this ability to comply with the Convention.
    Senator Menendez. Fine. I think Senator McCain said in his 
statement that there would be no financial obligations upon 
ratification of the Convention. Is that State's understanding 
as well?
    Ms. Heumann. Yes, it is, Mr. Senator.
    Senator Menendez. And, with some minor exceptions as you 
have noted, it would seem to me that we are largely already in 
the lead here. So, it seems to me that, well, one other 
question before I make that statement.
    Is there any ceding of sovereignty here that will 
ultimately take away some of our sovereign rights in this 
field?
    Ms. Heumann. No, Mr. Senator.
    Ms. Hill. There is not. The articles that set up the 
commission for the Convention do not give the commission any 
authority to bind or to otherwise take any pieces of 
sovereignty away from the states parties.
    Senator Menendez. And it is my understanding that you 
responded to the chairman in terms of the best interests of how 
parents would care for disabled children. They would still have 
their absolute rights under that?
    Ms. Hill. They still have the rights that are consistent 
with current State and Federal law.
    Senator Menendez. So it seems to me that as a leader in the 
world already, it would not only be prudent, but desirable for 
the United States to join and help others follow our lead so 
that a citizen anywhere in the world would ultimately be able 
to enjoy the benefits of these rights.
    Ms. Heumann. Yes. And I would also like to say, you know, 
we are living in a globalized world, and the changes that have 
been made in the United States over the last four decades have 
afforded disabled people in this country tremendous 
opportunities. And as such, many of those individuals are now 
needing to be able to be competitive on the world market.
    Those individuals with more significant disabilities who 
have studied at universities, have studied in the appropriate 
fields for international work, in many cases are being thwarted 
by barriers which exist overseas. You will hear from John 
Lancaster that in spite of many of these barriers, people are, 
nonetheless, going overseas.
    But they do want to be able to feel when they are traveling 
that they can be able to say that their country has ratified 
this treaty. That they can freely speak about the great 
legislation that we have in the United States, the 
collaborative approaches that government and civil society have 
been able to use over the years.
    The reality is those of you on the dais today and in 
committees across this Congress are the ones who have 
promulgated meaningful legislation that has resulted in great 
changes for millions of Americans living here and wishing to 
work, study, and travel abroad. So I think we should take the 
great work that we have done and, with great pride, use it as 
an active diplomacy to be able to work with governments and 
civil society to help them make the advancements that 1 billion 
people need.
    Senator Menendez. I think you have summarized it so well 
that I will yield back the balance of my time.
    Thank you.
    Senator Durbin. Thank you, Senator Menendez.
    Senator Risch.
    Senator Risch. Thank you.
    Ms. Hill, I am interested, I want to focus on your 
testimony regarding the non-self-executing declaration. How far 
back do we reach to find the inception of that in treaties? 
When was the first time that was used? Do you know?
    Ms. Hill. I believe it was in the International Convention 
on the Civil and Political Rights.
    Senator Risch. What year would that have been, ballpark?
    Ms. Hill. And I am not sure the year of that. Sixty-six.
    [The information requested to the question above follows:]

    After consultation with the Department of State, attached is a list 
that surveys recent examples of the use of declarations in Senate 
resolutions of advice and consent regarding the non-self-executing 
status of treaties. The attached list is not intended to be exhaustive, 
but to provide a useful survey of recent practices.

[Editor's note.--The list mentioned above can be found in Annex II.]

    Senator Risch. Then the other question I would have is I 
think all of us are familiar with the frustration, I guess, 
Congress has had over the centuries trying to restrict the 
jurisdiction of another branch of Government. I am familiar 
with some of the litigation in that regard, but I am not 
familiar with any litigation regarding the non-self-executing 
declaration. Has that issue been litigated up through the 
highest court?
    Ms. Hill. No, not through the highest court. It was brought 
to one court. The court found that the non-self-executing 
declaration was effective and did not affect the particular 
issue in the case.
    Senator Risch. Was that a circuit court or a district 
court, or do you know?
    Ms. Hill. I believe that it was a district court, but I can 
get back to you with the details.
    Senator Risch. Could you, please? Yes, I would like the 
citation on that.
    [The information requested to the question above follows:]

    Id. In the leading case of Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 524 U.S. 692 
(2004), the Supreme Court treated a non-self-executing declaration as 
dispositive. The Court noted that ``The United States ratified the 
[International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] on the express 
understanding that it was not self-executing and so did not itself 
create obligations enforceable in the federal courts.'' The Court 
accordingly held without any further analysis that the ICCPR is not 
directly enforceable.

    Thank you very much.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Senator Durbin. Senator Cardin.
    Senator Cardin. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    And let me thank all of our witnesses and those who have 
participated. Also I am glad you acknowledged our former 
colleagues, Steve Bartlett and Tony Coelho.
    When I came to Congress in 1987, it was Tony Coelho who I 
think sensitized those of us in Congress to the needs of people 
with disabilities, and I remember one person who he had an 
incredible impact on, who was my closest friend, and that is 
Congressman Steny Hoyer, who took the leadership in the House 
in the passage of the ADA law. So I just really want to thank 
Tony for his longstanding work here in moving this country 
forward.
    We are proud of the progress that we have made in the 
United States, and I think the points that have been brought up 
here about how we can impact what is happening around the world 
are important. I remember Steny Hoyer the year after the ADA 
law passed, in his capacity as chairman of the U.S. Helsinki 
Commission, took the cause of people with disability 
internationally.
    And in 1991, through Steny Hoyer's leadership, through the 
leadership of the United States, we were able to get the OSCE 
to pass a declaration on the rights of people with 
disabilities, known as the Moscow document, which is somewhat 
aspirational since it points out the needs for us to respect 
the rights of people with disabilities in the workplace, in the 
Government, accessibility, et cetera.
    So I just really want to follow up in one respect to the 
comments that both our witnesses have made, and that is this, 
that you continuously state that the United States laws are the 
strongest and that whereas other countries have expressed their 
support for the rights of people with disabilities, they have 
not followed up with the type of legislative action and support 
that would provide effective changes.
    You are correct. Americans have the rights here in America, 
but they do travel, and we do first have a responsibility for 
international leadership, but also to protect our citizens when 
they travel to other countries. By the ratification of this 
Convention, can you just perhaps expand a little bit further as 
to what position the United States would be in to point to the 
laws that we have passed and how they have effectively advanced 
the rights of people with disability?
    I remember very clearly when these bills were moving 
through Congress, we heard all the horror stories that it 
couldn't be done, et cetera, et cetera. And now, as we have 
seen, we have been able to balance the pragmatic concerns with 
the needs of our people with disabilities.
    And so, what position are we in if we ratify the Convention 
to try to get the international community to take a look at our 
laws and use them as an international model since we have 
advanced the rights of people with disability in a lot more 
effective way than other countries around the world?
    Ms. Heumann. Senator, ratification will give us the ability 
to participate in various international fora where there is a 
focus on the Convention. This will enable us to help develop 
the agendas for discussion, to participate in those 
discussions, and then to participate in working with other 
governments to help them get a better understanding of how our 
laws have been developed.
    Let me give you kind of a very basic example that many of 
us who use wheelchairs experience when we are trying to travel 
overseas. We have a law called the Air Carriers Access Act, 
which is at this point I think about 20-some years old. It 
provides great protections for disabled people in the United 
States, and it is one that we, since it was passed so many 
years ago, many people just take it for granted.
    It means simple things like you have to be able to take 
your wheelchair to the door of the plane. And when you arrive, 
they have to bring your wheelchair to the door of the plane. If 
you need assistance on and off the plane, there should be 
something like an aisle chair that should have seatbelts so 
that you don't fall.
    I was traveling in a country once where I needed to bring 
my wheelchair to the door of the plane. I have a specially 
designed seat. And the staffer said to me, ``I have worked in 
this airport for 18 years. I have never allowed someone to 
bring their wheelchair to the door, and you are not going to be 
the first person to allow that to happen.''
    That type of an example of being able to work with their 
governments and allow their governments to understand the law 
that we have promulgated, how it has been implemented, how it 
has been appropriately enforced, and what it means for disabled 
people is very important.
    One of the colleagues here today from the State Department 
and I have recently been traveling, and we continuously have 
difficulty in getting our simple pieces of equipment because in 
other countries people accept when someone says, ``We will not 
bring it to you,'' that they just won't. And they get off the 
plane, sitting on aisle chairs without seatbelts, in chairs 
that don't fit them, and putting themselves at great risk.
    This is kind of a very simple, basic issue, and I believe 
that what we have been able to do over these many decades is go 
from simple issues to very complex issues like education of 
disabled children, and promulgation of regulations.
    Our expertise working with governments and civil society in 
a meaningful way will help to improve laws overseas because we 
can demonstrate with data. We have done great funding in this 
Congress on data. Our data can show the progress that has 
resulted because of our good legislation.
    Senator Cardin. Thank you very much.
    Ms. Hill, do you want to add anything?
    Ms. Hill. If I could go, return to the question about the 
courts upholding the RUDs non-self-executing? There is a 
Supreme Court case that did address that issue and found the 
non-self-executing declaration to be dispositive. So that has 
gone up through the First Circuit to the Supreme Court and has 
been found to be dispositive.
    Senator Cardin. And I assume you will get that cite to 
Senator Risch.
    Ms. Hill. And I will.
    Senator Cardin. Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent 
that a letter sent to the committee by the Jewish Disability 
Network representing the views of the Anti-Defamation League, 
the Association of Jewish Families and Children's Agencies, 
B'nai B'rith International, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, 
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. I wanted to make 
sure I got that one into the record for the chairman.
    [Laughter.]
    The National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Federation 
of North America, the Union of Reformed Judaism, United 
Synagogues of Conservative Judaism, and UJA Federation of New 
York, all in support of ratification, that that be made part of 
our record.
    Senator Durbin. Without objection.

[Editor's note.--The letter mentioned above can be found in 
Annex II.]

    Senator Durbin. Senator Barrasso.
    Senator Barrasso. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Ms. Heumann, from the cost standpoint, could you explain a 
little bit about the financial obligations associated with 
ratifying the Convention? How is the committee funded? How do 
those things work out?
    Ms. Heumann. The committee is funded through the general 
funds of the United Nations. We are not given a separate--the 
United States is not paying any additional funding for the 
committee.
    Senator Barrasso. So along those lines, would the United 
States be required under this Convention to provide monetary 
support for, say, disability programs to other nations that may 
not be able to afford them?
    Ms. Heumann. No.
    Senator Barrasso. OK. I want to ask you about some private 
conduct. This is a question I think Senator Durbin got to. 
Would the Convention impose obligations on individuals, private 
organizations, or religious groups within the United States?
    Ms. Hill. Not beyond the extent to which they are regulated 
today.
    Senator Barrasso. Ms. Hill, can you describe the amendment 
process under the Convention? Can the United States be bound by 
amendments that we don't agree with?
    Ms. Hill. Do you have a better handle on that?
    Ms. Heumann. The answer is ``No.''
    Senator Barrasso. OK. And Ms. Hill, can the United States 
be sued before an international tribunal or court under the 
Convention?
    Ms. Hill. There is no international tribunal set up to 
enforce this Convention.
    Senator Barrasso. OK. Thank you.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Senator Durbin. Senator Lee.
    Senator Lee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    And thanks to each of you for coming and joining us today.
    I wanted to start with you, Ms. Hill. I appreciate the 
references you made to federalism in the reservations that the 
United States has advocated. Can you talk to me for a minute 
about how those reservations are upheld, how they remain 
intact, whether or to what extent they are honored, and what 
impact they would have on a court's interpretation of the 
treaty were it to be ratified?
    Ms. Hill. I don't know of courts that have rejected RUDs, 
and the most important one is the self-executing declaration, 
and that has been upheld. So I don't know of any courts that 
have rejected a RUD and then expanded their jurisdiction to be 
able to enforce anything contrary to a RUD that was adopted 
through this process.
    Senator Lee. Harold Koh has been at times critical of what 
he sometimes describes as Swiss cheese ratification, where he 
says--there was a 2003 Stanford Law Review article in which he 
wrote that ratification of multilateral treaties with so many 
reservations, understandings, and declarations, that these 
conditions substantially limit the U.S. acceptance of these 
treaties.
    Do you share that concern that we sometimes tread into that 
zone and create a Swiss cheese ratification? And if so, are we 
approaching that here?
    Ms. Hill. I don't believe so. We have recommended three 
Reservations, five Understandings, and one Declaration, which I 
don't think in any way make this a Swiss cheese approach to the 
treaty. That is simply adopting the treaty and identifying the 
ways that it applies to our system.
    Senator Lee. Some have expressed concerns about Article 7 
of the Convention, which I am told is patterned somewhat or 
contains language patterned somewhat after corresponding 
language in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. And 
this language, according to some of the critics, focuses on the 
best interests of the child standard.
    That is a familiar standard to us in some respects here in 
the United States in that that is a standard that is frequently 
employed by courts in making custody determinations in the 
context of a divorce. And in those rare cases involving the 
invalidation of parental rights with an abusive home 
environment, it is sometimes a standard that is used to decide 
where the child goes then if the parental rights are dissolved.
    But the critics would say that Article 7 of this Convention 
would inject the best interests of the child standard into 
other contexts, contexts in which parents currently enjoy 
certain rights, certain--the right to make certain decisions 
unencumbered by the decisions of the State. Can you comment on 
those?
    Ms. Hill. To the extent that that is the concern, that this 
would reach into the private home and the private decisions of 
parents about how to raise their children, that would be 
protected by the private action reservation. So that would 
keep, under the U.N. Disability Convention, anything that might 
be read to interfere with the private decisions of parents 
about their children would be protected. That private action 
would be protected by the private action reservation.
    Senator Lee. Meaning that because no one has a private 
right of action to enforce the terms of the Convention itself, 
that that would take care of this concern?
    Ms. Hill. No, no. This would be that we interpret, we 
interpret the application of the U.N. Disabilities Convention 
to respect the distinctions between what we as a Federal 
Government can regulate in terms of private action and what we 
cannot. And so, in these cases, the home and family 
determinations of parents, unless they reach a level of State 
law, are within private action and would not be regulated under 
the Convention.
    If they do reach a level of State law, and State law has 
most jurisdiction over things like neglect and so forth, then 
you would get into the federalism reservation that would also 
say that State law would continue to apply in the way that it 
currently does.
    Senator Lee. OK. So the reservation, as you understand it, 
particularly the federalism reservation makes sure that we 
don't have a creep of Federal law into areas currently covered 
by State law----
    Ms. Hill. Correct.
    Senator Lee [continuing]. Which would include most custody 
determinations, most determinations regarding eligibility for 
educational programs, and things like that. Is that correct?
    Ms. Hill. Correct. Things that are beyond the Congress' 
power to regulate now.
    Senator Lee. OK. There are some critics who have pointed to 
provisions of the IDEA and pointed out that parents have 
certain rights under the IDEA and that that aspect of Federal 
law would be modified by Article 7 of this Convention. Can you 
comment on that?
    Ms. Hill. Those are interpreted through our 
nondiscrimination Understanding, that those would be read as 
nondiscrimination obligations rather than as any affirmative 
obligations. Those would not inhibit parents' ability to both 
participate in the IEP process and make their positions known, 
or to make their decisions to reject special education services 
that were being proposed by a school.
    Senator Lee. So you would agree that without those 
reservations, that might be a change to existing law? It might 
be a change to the existing law under the IDEA, but with the 
reservations, there is not a change.
    Ms. Hill. I actually don't believe. I was accepting for the 
purposes of the argument that that would be the case.
    Senator Lee. OK.
    Ms. Hill. But I actually don't believe that this changes 
the basic approach of the IDEA, which already includes the best 
interests of the child and already includes the participation 
of the child, as appropriate, in the decisionmaking.
    Senator Lee. OK. There is a Professor Geraldine Van Bueren, 
who apparently assisted in the drafting of the corresponding 
language in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, who, in 
reference to the corresponding language in the Convention on 
the Rights of the Child, said that the best interests standard 
provides decision and policymakers with the authority to 
substitute their own decision for either the child's or the 
parents', providing it is based on considerations of the best 
interests of the child.
    Do you disagree with Professor Van Bueren?
    Ms. Hill. She is talking about the Convention on the Rights 
of Children, and I am not an expert in the Convention on the 
Rights of Children. But the difference--at least one of the 
differences between that Convention and this one--is that this 
one has a nondiscrimination provision. So this does not add 
laws, add benefits, add requirements regarding individuals with 
disabilities that are not equal and the same as those added for 
children without disabilities.
    So if we had adopted the CRC, then those rights would carry 
on to children with disabilities. But not having pursued that, 
the rights provided to children with disabilities under this 
would be nondiscrimination rights.
    Senator Lee. So the different context in which similar 
language was used in the CRC gives it a different application 
there than it would have here since this is in the context of 
nondiscrimination?
    Ms. Hill. Correct. And then reemphasized by our 
interpretation of all economic, social, and cultural rights as 
nondiscrimination rights.
    Senator Lee. OK. Thank you.
    I see my time has expired.
    Senator Durbin. Senator Risch, did you want to make a point 
before I recognize Senator Shaheen?
    Senator Risch. Please. Actually, I wanted to ask a 
question.
    Ms. Hill, since 1966, can you tell me how many treaties 
that we have had where the language, the non-self-executing 
declaration has been included in the treaty?
    Ms. Hill. I am not sure I know all of them. The ones that I 
referred to in my testimony, including the Convention on Civil 
and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture, I 
believe are----
    Senator Risch. Do you think there is more than two? Is it 
possible there is more?
    Ms. Hill. Three. I think the racial discrimination one as 
well included it.
    Senator Risch. And is the language precisely the same, 
close to the same in each of these treaties? Is it different? 
Is it modified for each treaty, or is there boilerplate 
language for this particular provision?
    Ms. Hill. It is certainly based on the same concept. I 
can't swear that, line by line, every word is the same.
    Ms. Heumann. We can get back to you with that.
    Senator Risch. Would you, please? And also if you could 
check and see if there are other treaties than these three that 
have such a provision, I would sincerely appreciate it.
    And thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Senator Durbin. Senator Shaheen.
    Senator Shaheen. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    And thank you all very much to the panelists for being 
here. I apologize for missing your testimony.
    Ms. Heumann, I think I am pronouncing your name correctly?
    Ms. Heumann. Yes.
    Senator Shaheen. In your testimony, you stated that 
ratification of the treaty would give the United States 
legitimacy and a platform from which to push for the adoption 
among other countries internationally. Can you talk a little 
bit about how foreign countries and foreign governments 
currently perceive the fact that the United States has not 
ratified the treaty and what our failure to ratify the 
Convention has meant on our leadership on issues around 
disabilities throughout the world?
    Ms. Heumann. Thank you very much for the question.
    I think people are perplexed, quite frankly, because this 
area is one that the United States has led on for so many 
decades. And so, there is a real question from disabled people, 
why is the United States abandoning us? That word may not be 
used, but it is really something that people are concerned 
about.
    We have got all this expertise. Why are we not freely 
sharing it? Why are we not being able to participate at 
relevant tables?
    I think governments are also questioning why we are not 
more actively participating. We go to various fora, but because 
we haven't ratified, we are not able to participate.
    So last year, for example, we were going to be asked to 
speak on a plenary panel in the U.N. when the Conference of 
State Parties convenes, which is the body that gets together 
every year to discuss the Convention. But we were not allowed 
to participate because we hadn't ratified.
    It meant that, in my view, the country that has got the 
most experience in really grappling with critical issues on 
inclusion of disabled children in education, work in 
universities, teacher training, we were not allowed to 
participate. These are all very missed opportunities from a 
foreign diplomacy perspective.
    It is something that the President and the Secretary 
obviously feel strongly about that we need to ratify so that 
we, in fact, can freely be able to participate and advance the 
tremendous work that we have done in the United States in an 
incredibly bipartisan way.
    And I think this is something that is also very important. 
What I am hearing from colleagues of mine who are working in 
the field around the world is what they are really struck by is 
how governments are so sincerely interested in making changes.
    I think the adoption of the treaty in 2006 was an amazing 
effort which brought hundreds of disabled people from around 
the world from some of the poorest countries, who sat side-by-
side with members of their foreign delegations and for the 
first time were really able to explain the kinds of problems 
that people are facing.
    The United States played an important role in those 
discussions.
    Concepts like reasonable accommodation, which are in the 
Convention, are because of the great efforts of the team of 
U.S. people who participated.
    So our standing in the world, I think, will be enhanced. We 
will more freely be able to demonstrate the great work that we 
have done. There will be ranges of opportunities where we can 
discuss this. And most importantly, at the diplomatic level, I 
think we will really be elevating our knowledge and expertise 
to be able to advance and elevate the rights of disabled 
people.
    Senator Shaheen. I don't know which of you would like to 
address this question. But as you all know, there is widespread 
support for the Convention from a variety of stakeholders. Over 
165 disability organizations and 21 major veterans and military 
service organizations have supported ratification.
    Can you all talk about why this support has been so 
widespread?
    Ms. Heumann. I think there are a number of reasons. One of 
those is that our laws have enabled disabled people in the 
United States to achieve a level of success, certainly not yet 
for all disabled people, so that people are aspiring to do 
more. They are aspiring to participate in the global scene.
    Disabled veterans who wish to get jobs overseas or just to 
vacation overseas or veterans who have a family member with a 
disability or civilians, they are being thwarted. We see that 
with Foreign Service officers who cannot take a position 
overseas unless they are separated from their families because 
they don't have the same services in those countries as we have 
here.
    I think people see it as the right thing to do. I think 
many people in the United States understand the importance of 
being able to participate in the global market. We see it as an 
opportunity from a business perspective to be able to sell 
products that we have designed in the United States--
wheelchairs, information technology, et cetera. These are all 
very critical things.
    And I think, quite frankly, you know, you look at the 
religious community. We have met with many religious 
organizations that are doing work in developing countries that 
are very much understanding the benefit of taking what we have 
been learning here and are taking it overseas to work in very 
small rural communities to be able to help advance the rights 
of families and children with disabilities.
    Senator Shaheen. And can you elaborate a little bit on the 
economic benefits? Because you alluded to that just now and in 
your testimony, but can you talk about why there would be real 
economic benefits to us as a country in ratifying the treaty?
    Ms. Heumann. So I think there are a number of ways to look 
at economic benefit. From the U.S. perspective, economic 
benefit of our being able to take products that we have 
developed and look at markets overseas to sell those products I 
think is very important. We also see a growing number of 
disabled people, as I have been saying, who wish to work 
overseas. So it is an economic impact for them.
    We know that disabled people around the world are the 
poorest of the poor. We know that education is one of the 
critical reasons why people are poor, whether they are disabled 
or not. We see that as women become educated, and we should, 
therefore, believe that if disabled girls are part of that, 
they will also be able to become meaningful players in the 
economic market.
    Families that can earn their own money are less dependent 
on other kinds of supports. Many of the countries that we all 
work in, in fact, disabled people have no economic supports 
they can get from government. So they are a drag on their 
families. Family members who don't have disabilities cannot go 
to work because they are staying home taking care of people.
    There are so many economic reasons from the U.S. 
perspective to not only advance from our perspective in the 
United States, but to help other countries learn what we have 
done to be able to help people with disabilities get the tools 
they need to be able to work.
    Senator Shaheen. Thank you.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Senator Durbin. Senator DeMint?
    Senator DeMint. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I want to thank our witnesses as well. Respecting and 
recognizing the rights of disabled persons is an important 
issue, and the goals of this Convention are admirable.
    But I have concerns about how we achieve those goals. The 
idea that the United States must join the U.N. Convention to 
give ourselves more legitimacy in the world given our extensive 
work, which has been pointed out by our witnesses, to protect 
the rights of disabled is demeaning to those who have succeeded 
in working for the high standards we have in the United States.
    Joining this Convention will not enhance the rights of the 
disabled in the United States. There is also little evidence to 
suggest that joining the Convention will coerce other countries 
to improve their protection of disabled people. We can see this 
through examples of other U.N. Conventions.
    China routinely flouts the Law of the Sea Convention in 
South China Sea. Adherence to the Convention on the Elimination 
of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, such as Saudi 
Arabia, shows slow improvement in guaranteeing basic rights for 
women. Furthermore, the Department of State, USAID, and the 
Department of Justice are already resources for countries that 
are seeking help in improving the treatment of disabled people.
    More worrisome, convention committees have a track record 
of overstepping their authority and advocating positions that 
are contrary to American laws and values. As one of our 
witnesses will point out in his testimony, a 2008 report from 
the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 
called on the United States to, among other things, place a 
moratorium on the death penalty, restore voting rights to 
convicted felons, and ensure that enemy combatants at 
Guantanamo Bay have the right to judicial review.
    The committee that oversees the Convention on the 
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, of 
which the United States is not a party, has a long record of 
promoting abortion, the decriminalization of prostitution, 
gender quotas, and reducing parental authority. These 
committees have acted far beyond their authority in their 
recommendations and by doing so promote polarization and 
mistrust among the member nations.
    Portions of this Convention also concern reproductive 
health and the rights of children. These issues should be 
addressed by individual U.S. States and local governments. We 
should never cede the authority of these matters to an 
international organization.
    Our Founding Fathers cautioned us long ago against foreign 
entanglements. Many of us know President Washington's warning 
in his farewell address where he stated, ``The great rule of 
conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our 
commercial relations to have with them as little political 
connection as possible. So far as we have already formed 
engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. 
Here let us stop.''
    In Thomas Jefferson's inaugural speech, the author of the 
Declaration of Independence, stated, ``Peace, commerce, and 
honest friendships with all nations, entangling alliances with 
none.''
    I believe that we have distanced ourselves from the words 
of our Founders. Despite the best intentions of the 
international agreements we find ourselves considering, these 
warnings should resonate today as loud as they did at the 
genesis of our country.
    Before I get to my questions, I have some concerns with the 
timing and process for vetting this treaty that I would like to 
address. This Convention was submitted to the Senate less than 
2 months ago, and Senators were only informed of the chairman's 
desire for consideration before the July 4th recess.
    Senators on this committee have already been asked to 
consider and debate a highly complicated and controversial 
treaty, the Convention on the Law of the Sea, this summer, and 
we are continuing to monitor and deal with several issues of 
urgency in the Middle East and elsewhere.
    I appreciate the chairman's willingness to hold this 
hearing and invite witnesses representing a variety of 
opinions. But I caution against expediting this Convention and 
ask that Senators are allowed to have ample time and 
opportunity to review and discuss its merits.
    I am going to read directly from Article 25, Section 8 of 
the Convention. It says that, ``State parties shall provide 
persons with disabilities with the same range, quality, and 
other standards of free or affordable health care and programs 
as provided to other persons, including the area of sexual and 
reproductive health and population-based public health.''
    I understand that when the U.N. General Assembly adopted 
final text in 2006, the United States issued a statement 
stating that reproductive health did not include abortion. 
However, this administration has a different understanding of 
reproductive health than the previous one. Secretary Clinton 
stated in 2009 that we think or, ``We happen to think that 
family planning is an important part of women's health, and 
reproductive health includes access to abortion that I believe 
should be safe, legal, and rare.''
    I would just like to ask the panel how does the United 
States define reproductive health in this Convention, and does 
this administration stand by Secretary Clinton's statement 
about reproductive health when it comes to this Convention?
    I would also just like you to reflect on why it is that the 
United States, who has really set the gold standard for how we 
deal with disabilities, why should we submit ourselves to other 
nations who have been far less effective and committed to this 
cause?
    We can certainly be the model. We can be the example. We 
can be the light on the hill for the whole world. We can 
provide resources. But why should we present ourselves to the 
study of those who would scrutinize our work under criteria 
that, clearly, they overstep on all of the areas we have been 
involved with the United Nations? Why should we submit instead 
of lead?
    So I will go back to my first question of reproductive 
health and then ask any just comments you might have on why the 
United States should submit rather than lead.
    Ms. Hill. Sure. Thank you for the question.
    First of all, the Convention doesn't discuss abortion.
    And to the extent that it discusses health services and 
reproductive health services, those are nondiscrimination 
requirements. So they neither obligate the United States to 
increase abortion availability or other reproductive health 
service availability.
    Senator DeMint. So you disagree with Secretary Clinton that 
reproductive health includes abortion?
    Ms. Hill. No, I don't disagree with that, with the 
interpretation that reproductive health could include abortion. 
But the reproductive health provisions of this Convention are 
nondiscrimination requirements.
    So if reproductive health services are provided to people 
in general, all the reproductive health provisions say is that 
they also have to be made available to people with 
disabilities. They do not create new reproductive health 
obligations. They do not create new obligations to fund 
abortion or anything else that might be considered reproductive 
health.
    Senator DeMint. And do you think that our country 
submitting ourselves to the scrutiny and criticism of this 
international body made up of countries who are far less 
effective as we are is going to improve our treatment of the 
disabled in this country?
    Ms. Hill. Quite simply, we don't submit ourselves to an 
international body. The international body has a limited set of 
powers laid out in the articles that address those powers. And 
they do not have the power to bind us. We do not have any 
obligation to follow their recommendations.
    We report to them periodically and not that frequently, and 
they may give suggestions and recommendations, which we do not 
have to adopt in any way.
    Senator DeMint. And neither does any other country.
    Ms. Hill. And neither does any other country. And so, for 
us, the goal of our participation is to be able to influence by 
being at the table, other countries incorporation of what we 
believe are the gold standards that we have adopted so that our 
people can be consistently accommodated and consistently 
guaranteed access overseas.
    Ms. Heumann. And Senator, I would like to also say that 
what we have seen in this country in relationship to the 
advancement of the rights of disabled people being done in a 
consistent, nonpartisan way is what we are seeing around the 
world. So I think in some way this treaty may be different than 
some other treaties.
    Because, as I have stated throughout my discussions today, 
we are seeing governments with various political persuasions, 
who frequently we have difficulty speaking with, being willing 
to talk with the State Department and others, giving us 
opportunities because we are discussing an issue that affects 
so many people, regardless of their economic background and 
regardless of their political background.
    So we have seen this in numerous countries.
    Senator DeMint. Well, I agree. I agree. Clearly, good 
things are happening. The United States has made tremendous 
amounts of progress. The world is copying us in a lot of 
respects. As you said, the world is talking to our State 
Department.
    There is no other table that we need a seat at than the one 
we already have, which is a seat at the top where people come 
for the gold standard. And it seems like you are basically 
contradicting yourself, saying that we are making huge progress 
here and around the world. We are interacting with the rest of 
the world. They are copying our gold standard, but somehow we 
need to submit ourselves to this.
    And we are submitting to really a multimillion dollar study 
every 4 years, where we will get the basically criticism--and 
we have seen it from other conventions--of what we are doing, 
instead of what we are doing now, which is setting the example 
and creating a process of continuous improvement that benefits 
Americans with disabilities, as well as people all over the 
world.
    Ms. Heumann. I believe, Senator, that our failure to 
ratify, in fact, does not give us the prominence that we should 
have. The United States has done such fantastic work in this 
area. I believe not ratifying, now that 116 countries have 
ratified and we know that more countries will be ratifying, we 
are being denied opportunities at international fora where 
disabled people and governments are sitting down to have 
genuine discussions about how to move this issue forward.
    I don't think we have anything to hide. Our laws are good. 
We have good ways of monitoring. We find problems. We correct 
the problems. We can afford to hear from others where they 
believe we are not doing something the right way.
    We have no obligation under this treaty to take 
recommendations that we think are inappropriate. But there may 
be recommendations that come forward that, in fact, may be 
fine, that we can learn from, that we can decide whether or not 
we want to utilize.
    I think in the area of disability, our expertise will be 
enabled to be distributed in a more--a more effective way if, 
in fact, we take the good work that we have done with pride and 
say the U.S. is willing to sit down and be at the table through 
ratification.
    It will give us an opportunity also to be able to speak to 
governments more critically when, in fact, we believe, they are 
not appropriately implementing their laws, when they are not 
doing budgeting in their own budgets to ensure that disability 
be taken into consideration, when they are not, in fact, 
looking at how they can educate disabled children when we know 
they may be able to do more than they are doing.
    It gives us a different opportunity and one which I really 
have repeatedly said, our Congresses over many, many years have 
continued to reinforce the work that we have done. We use that 
issue when we travel overseas. We talk about the bipartisan 
work that our Congress is able to achieve, coming together on 
this issue of disability.
    So I just want to say we don't believe we are submitting. 
We believe it would be a very positive effort, and it would be 
one which really would, I think, allow benefits both for 
Americans here in the United States and would advance the 
rights of disabled people around the world.
    Senator DeMint. Well, I admire your work and your goals, 
and I have the same goals. I just think the history, if we look 
at what the United Nations has done with an incredible amount 
of U.S. money, I think there is reason to question that they 
could actually improve the process we have already begun. But 
we clearly disagree on that, but we agree on your goals.
    Thank you very much for being here.
    Mr. Chairman, thank you for the courtesy of some extra 
time.
    The Chairman [presiding]. I am delighted to use the extra 
time. I think it is important to be able to vet all of this as 
adequately as possible.
    I would just say to the Senator if he could convince me 
that an extra 3 weeks or a month was going to open his mind to 
supporting the treaty, I might consider it.
    [Laughter.]
    The Chairman. I might also add that in all the years I have 
been here, never has this Congress been doing as little as it 
is doing today. And I have ceased to be sympathetic after 6 
months on the super committee of trying to reach an agreement 
in a nonnegotiating atmosphere. I am not very sympathetic to 
the notion that we all need a lot more time to do things.
    Only the United States Congress takes the kind of time it 
does to ``consider things.'' And I think the American public 
and a lot of people expect us to do our work and do it faster, 
do it better. And I hope we are going to do that.
    Senator Coons. I have some questions, but Senator Coons was 
here. And then I will come back to him.
    Senator Coons. Thank you, Chairman Kerry. And thank you for 
convening this hearing.
    I, with you, believe that the American people expect us to 
continue our work and to be diligent and thorough and engaged 
in considering important opportunities for us to expand 
American leadership at home and abroad, and particularly on an 
important and bipartisan issue of civil rights and civil 
liberties such as the rights of persons with disabilities.
    And I want to thank Senator Durbin for his leadership on 
this particular Convention and topic and Senators McCain and 
Harkin, who testified earlier. I was honored to join them, as 
well as Senators Udall, Barrasso, and Moran, in advocating that 
the committee take up the consideration of ratification of this 
treaty.
    As Senators McCain and Harkin emphasized in their 
testimony, bipartisanship has long been the hallmark of 
American leadership on protecting the rights of citizens with 
disabilities. And today, I believe we need to continue that 
proud tradition and extend that leadership globally with the 
ratification of the CRPD.
    I was particularly moved by Senator McCain's reading of 
Senator Dole's letter and think it is important for us to 
recognize the very real positive opportunities embedded in 
ratification. So if I might first, Ms. Heumann, what would be 
the impact of ratification on our veteran community?
    I was struck at just how broad and nearly unanimous amongst 
the veterans community support was for ratification. How would 
ratification specifically help promote access for our wounded 
warriors traveling overseas?
    Ms. Heumann. First, it would allow our wounded warriors to 
be a part of discussions that may take place overseas. They may 
be part of businesses that are going overseas to look at issues 
of implementation of accessibility standards, possibly selling 
products like ramps and other kinds of technology--wheelchairs, 
et cetera--that could be used by veterans overseas, non-U.S. 
veterans overseas, as well as by others.
    I think veterans play a very critical role in those efforts 
because a disabled veteran who is then wanting to go out and 
work and actively participate in society demonstrates a very 
strong message that in the United States, regardless of 
disability, we believe people are able to continue with their 
life, make advancements, and make major contributions to 
society. And veterans really stand in a unique position in that 
regard.
    So that is one thing that I would say about veterans. 
Veterans and civilians also are wishing to study overseas. The 
ability to be able to take our knowledge and experience about 
what we have done with universities here, great disabled 
student services offices that have removed barriers that over 
the last 40 years have resulted in people with psychiatric 
disabilities, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, 
blindness, deafness, et cetera, who are now attending community 
colleges and universities.
    Where in many other countries, I mean, I meet--I visit 
countries, and I am astonished by some of the barriers. Blind 
people in certain countries not being able to study in the 
field of technology. Nobody knows why, but they are not allowed 
to study in the field of technology.
    A disabled veteran who happens to be blind, who may, in 
fact, have studied, being able to go overseas and being able to 
show what our universities have been able to do for them and 
how they are now in a position of leadership. Those are all 
very important areas that we can lead on.
    Senator Coons. You mentioned in your previous testimony 
that upward of 90 percent of disabled children in the 
developing world do not attend school. What might ratification 
do to strengthen the efforts of the U.S. Government overseas 
either through multilateral institutions or directly or through 
bilateral effort or in partnership with NGOs, how might 
ratification help strengthen our current efforts to improve the 
opportunities for disabled children to fully participate in 
education overseas?
    Ms. Heumann. It allows us to use our expertise, both for 
agencies like the Department of Education and then 
international organizations that are doing work overseas in the 
area of education, to be more inclusive of taking the knowledge 
that we have learned on how to educate disabled children 
effectively. It allows USAID and the State Department to do 
more than just be looked at as grantmaking agencies, but really 
also to be able to sit down and use our expertise.
    When I was recently in Ethiopia, we had some very 
productive discussions with the Ministry of Education that is 
really seriously grappling with many of the issues about how to 
educate disabled children, both in urban and rural areas where 
they have additional challenges, and some fantastic staff who 
have very good experience. But they really want to know the 
nuts and bolts.
    And we have people in the United States, for example, from 
universities who are traveling overseas. In some cases, courses 
are being set up that they are teaching. They are working with 
universities on some very pragmatic issues that we have learned 
about.
    For example, universities, when they set up schools of 
education, including that issue of education for disabled 
children be a part of the general training for teachers in 
general, that they can get basic training on how to work with 
children who have different types of disabilities. I think 
these are some of the very basic mechanisms that we can utilize 
to advance the knowledge and expertise that we have here and to 
share it with other countries overseas.
    Senator Coons. And if I might, last, what sort of--do you 
have any quantification of the sort of market opportunities 
there might be for the sale of technologies, of equipment and 
materials? If we are one of the world leaders in helping with 
adaptive technologies and helping with building modifications 
and retrofits, with supportive services, what sorts of market 
opportunities are there that we might be missing out on because 
we are simply observers rather than advocates, supporters, 
ratifiers of this important Convention?
    Ms. Heumann. I believe that there can be significant 
markets that can be developed and are developed. In areas like 
information technology, we are seeing--I read in one of the 
reports that had come in the other day about how a company, in 
fact, is now selling cell phones in Africa that will be 
accessible for blind people.
    These are things that are happening whether or not U.S. 
companies--some of the U.S. companies are obviously taking 
advantage of this now. But I think one of the big issues, 
especially in business, is that as people see there is a 
growing market, business people understand they want to 
gravitate to that market.
    And one of the issues with the CRPD and 116 countries 
having ratified is that disabled people in those countries are 
also demanding more. Our ability to demonstrate and show the 
products that we can sell to them and, in many cases, also go 
into those countries and help learn how to make their own 
products. So there are organizations, for example, in this 
country, that have been working in Africa and Asia and others, 
going in and helping people learn how to make wheelchairs that 
can be maintained very simply, training people so that bicycle 
makers can also repair wheelchairs.
    There are many different ways that we can look at the 
business market, but I think we have great opportunities. And 
we have great creativity in the business community.
    Senator Coons. Well, thank you.
    I think this is an opportunity for us to show values 
leadership, but also an opportunity for us to explore and 
develop both opportunities for education in the developing 
world, opportunities for our own veterans to travel and to 
represent us, and opportunities for us to fully participate in 
the expansion of opportunities for people with disabilities 
worldwide.
    Thank you for your testimony today.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    The Chairman. Thank you very much, Senator Coons. And thank 
you also for your willingness to chair a little bit as we 
balance schedules here.
    Let me just ask a couple of questions. We have two other 
panels, and everybody is being very patient, and each of the 
panels are extraordinarily important. So we will wrap up here 
momentarily and seamlessly transition right away into the 
second panel.
    I just want to ask you very quickly. I want to come back to 
Senator DeMint's question a moment ago. I just want to clarify 
for the record that Article 25 of the Convention could not be 
more clear about the requirements and powers that parties have 
with respect to this question of nondiscrimination abortion or 
obligation.
    And it is with respect to health issues, there is only a 
nondiscrimination obligation. There is no requirement to do 
something extra or to not do something.
    Ms. Heumann. Correct.
    The Chairman. And that is correct, is it not?
    Ms. Heumann. Yes.
    The Chairman. I just want to make that crystal clear on the 
record here that Article 25 could not be more clear with 
respect to that.
    Second, the issue has been asked, and appropriately, by a 
number of Senators why--so why do we need it? What are we 
really going to get? I don't think that is clear enough for the 
record yet, and I want you to really try to bear down on it a 
little bit.
    If we join the Convention, some people say we can get this 
progress no matter what, and the United States will continue to 
lead, et cetera. So I really want you to try to give us some 
examples, tell us why we need to join the multilateral 
Convention, and show us perhaps some specific examples of where 
our absence or where our presence on the disabilities committee 
would actually improve the performance. Could you do that, 
please?
    Ms. Heumann. Sure. Our failure thus far to ratify means 
that at the upcoming meeting in September, where there will be 
a new slate of people running for office, we will not be able 
to vote. That means that we will really not be able to also 
affect the votes of other individuals.
    I think it is important for us at this particular meeting 
where these discussions will be going on, that we are able to 
critically look at those people who will be on the committee. 
Look for the best people. Not only be able to vote for the best 
people, but also to be able to help influence those people who 
will be serving on the committee.
    The committee, we believe, is an important one. It needs to 
be a knowledgeable one because it is going to be giving advice 
and recommendations to governments around the world. So that is 
one critical issue.
    I think other opportunities where we can be able to discuss 
things like accessible transportation, accessible standards in 
general. Elections, a very important issue. Our ability to 
really help participate in discussions, to be able to advance 
work in the area of elections is also important.
    The Chairman. But somebody might sit there and say, well, 
you know, that world is going to go on anyway. They can see 
what we have done. What do we really gain by being part of 
that?
    Ms. Hill. I would suggest that there are going to be 
discussions at the states parties meetings where we cannot 
participate as states parties where individual countries are 
deciding what standards and what policies they should be using 
going forward.
    By not ratifying, we are getting a cloud of questions.
    Is there really something wrong with your law that keeps 
you from not ratifying? Are you really not committed to this 
that keeps you from not ratifying?
    That may make countries turn to other countries who have 
ratified to say, well, maybe your approach is actually better. 
And in those cases, it is very important that our approaches 
are in the mix.
    So, for example, a veteran comes home with an injury and 
receives his or her rehabilitation here and learns how to use a 
wheelchair in the situations that we set up here--what a 5-foot 
turning radius looks like, a 36-inch ramp, a ramp with a 
certain slope--and is prepared to deal with those things. And 
then will be expected to go to other countries, and they may 
have adopted, because of our absence from the table, other 
standards----
    The Chairman. So the bottom line is we may not be 
protecting our veterans and our people with disabilities rights 
as effectively and significantly as we would want to.
    Ms. Hill. That is correct.
    The Chairman. Is that correct?
    Ms. Hill. That is correct.
    Ms. Heumann. Absolutely. That is correct.
    The Chairman. I would assume also that we are not 
necessarily finding best practices put into place because we 
have been dealing with this for longer, and we are not at the 
table with the kind of credibility that allows us to be able to 
affect an outcome that could be either less costly, more 
effective, or a number of other positive benefits.
    Ms. Heumann. And it also, I think, denies us opportunities 
to learn about new ways that we may be working with things like 
development of accessibility regulations that other governments 
may need to use in places like rural communities.
    The Chairman. Now with respect to the federalism 
reservation that you are proposing, Ms. Hill, I think this has 
been touched on a little bit. But again, I think it is critical 
to clarify, and I want the record to be crystal clear on it.
    States will not be required to change their laws in any way 
in order to comply with the Convention. Is that accurate?
    Ms. Hill. States are not covered by the Convention. The 
Federal Government is covered by the Convention. And to the 
extent that the Federal Government does not have authority 
under our Federal system to regulate States or to the extent 
that particular issues are left to the States, those States 
retain the ability to maintain those issues without changing 
our Federal balance between Federal and State power.
    The Chairman. So the Convention would not give the Federal 
Government any new authority to somehow force a State 
government to change their law or regulation with respect to 
disabled?
    Ms. Hill. That is correct.
    The Chairman. And would joining the Convention in any way 
shift the balance of power between the Federal Government and 
the States----
    Ms. Hill. No.
    The Chairman [continuing]. With regard to any disabilities 
issues?
    Ms. Hill. No.
    The Chairman. Are there any further questions of this 
panel?
    Senator DeMint. Mr. Chairman.
    The Chairman. Senator DeMint.
    Senator DeMint. Just a final comment. Again, I appreciate 
the questions. I appreciate the panel. But I think, as we often 
do up here, we are confusing our goals with the means to those 
goals.
    There is no reason that we can't join with other countries 
and organizations around the world to develop best practices 
and share information on disabilities. But a treaty has a high 
standard in a three-quarters vote in the Senate for a very 
particular reason. It is something that goes beyond voluntary 
cooperation.
    And while we are saying this is a treaty with no authority, 
can't force us to do anything. In that case, it doesn't need to 
be a treaty. It needs to be an association, an organization, a 
working group that gets together.
    We can accomplish these goals without another entanglement 
in a sense that involves some standardization, which I found in 
my work in the private sector, when you centralize control, you 
standardize certain quality aspects, you generally limit long-
term continuous improvement.
    So I don't deny that the goals are good. The cooperation is 
good. The best practice is good. But the centralization of 
control here, even though we are saying there is no authority 
behind it, I think could very well limit our ability to 
continuously improve a process that the more I listen to the 
witnesses, the more I hear it is already happening.
    That the commercial aspect of this is getting involved as 
demand around the world improves. Now with the Internet and 
people able to find out about these things, it is likely to 
move ahead. But a treaty like this is more likely to 
standardize certain technologies and protocols that are likely 
to limit the innovation and improvement in the future.
    That has been my experience not just with the United 
Nations, but every effort by major large groups of centralized 
control when really the power is going to come from the bottom 
up.
    Thank you.
    The Chairman. Well, with all due respect, Senator, the 
power is coming from the bottom up, and it is not centralizing 
control. It is, in fact, control lies still within each country 
that applies the law. It is applying a broader standard. And we 
have applied those broader standards in any number of ways.
    With all due respect, when the Senator says we deny long-
term improvement when you standardize, every experience of the 
Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, of the expansion of 
rights for people in this country, and the ADA itself, I mean, 
you can look at the examples of the numbers of people with 
disabilities who are in the workforce today who are educated 
and teaching and doing things productively who never would have 
been, and they are doing so under a standardized aspiration, if 
you will.
    And the aspiration is equality of opportunity, which is at 
the core of what this country is all about. So I would just 
deeply disagree with the Senator's conclusion with respect to 
what is being sought here. Not one power of the United States 
is given up. Not one power of the United States is given up, 
and in fact, to some degree, we wind up handicapping ourselves 
by not being party because other folks will set other kinds of 
standards and other things which we may not have met or may not 
have agreed to or could have affected.
    I think Attorney General Thornburgh and others who have had 
long experience with this can testify. I am not here to 
testify, but I do think that since the Senator didn't ask a 
question and made a statement, I wanted to equally make a 
statement in disagreement with that.
    And I would just ask you both, as you sat there and 
listened to the Senator, I mean, he is basically saying we can 
do this without it. I mean, that is the bottom line. Can we do 
this without it? Can we be as effective? Can we achieve our 
goal without this?
    Ms. Heumann. I think we have repeatedly stated this morning 
that we don't believe that is true. I think we have tried to 
lay out this morning the arguments of why it is critically 
important that we be at the multiple fora that are available to 
us.
    But most importantly, I think it is not appropriate to look 
at the CRPD as anything which is centralized because as you 
have said, Senator, the work that is going to be done to make 
changes in the lives of disabled people is done at the country 
level. It is done at the village level. It is done at the level 
where people are living.
    Our ultimate work will be successful when we have been 
able, working with the CRPD and the bilateral and 
multilaterals, to make the significant changes. That will take 
many, many years. This is when we will see opportunities that 
will be afforded to many people.
    We know that in many of the countries we are dealing in, 
these are not simple fixes. But our ability to share our 
technical knowledge is critically important and cannot be done 
in as meaningful a way when we are not ratified.
    The Chairman. And I might remind folks, in the 1980s when I 
first came here, I can remember there were still buildings 
where people with disabilities couldn't punch an elevator 
button, couldn't get to a second floor. Couldn't access a 
telephone. Couldn't do fundamental kinds of things.
    And the reason they can do those things today is because we 
set an aspirational standard, and people sought to achieve it. 
So I would urge Senators to look at this very, very carefully.
    And it is not complicated. It is not hard to read it. It is 
not that big, long, and complicated a thing. And I urge 
Senators to look at the de minimis, de minimis, the nonexistent 
give-up of any State of any rights, of any current capacity in 
our country. And that is why I said in the outset in my opening 
comments that I only see the upside. But that is for others to 
determine each for themselves.
    I want to thank you on this panel very, very much. We 
really appreciate your testimony. We will leave the record open 
for a week for the submission of questions in writing and 
really appreciate you being here today.
    The Chairman. If I could ask everybody to sit quietly and 
the second panel will just come up and immediately take their 
places? We would like to begin their testimony right away, if 
we can.
    And we have still a third panel, too. So we are going to 
continue right through, folks, and we are not going to truncate 
anybody. Oh, it is? So we have everybody consolidated on the 
one panel, which is great.
    Attorney General, if you would? Thank you.
    So on this panel, we have the Honorable--who do we have 
here? The Honorable Richard Thornburgh, former Attorney General 
of the United States, who will lead off. Mr. John Wodatch, the 
former Chief of the Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights. 
Mr. Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation and Michael Farris 
of Patrick Henry College and Mr. John Lancaster, first 
lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, retired.
    So, General, would you lead off, please? Do you mind?
    We are delighted to welcome you back here.
    Thank you for your patience and thanks for your willingness 
to come and testify. And thank you also for your many hats you 
have worn in public service. We greatly appreciate your 
presence.

 STATEMENT OF HON. RICHARD THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL 
 OF THE UNITED STATES, OF COUNSEL, K&L; GATES, LLP, WASHINGTON, 
                               DC

    Mr. Thornburgh. Good morning to you all.
    Chairman Kerry, Ranking Member Lugar, members of the 
committee, as a veteran of almost 50 years in the disability 
rights movement and perhaps more importantly as a proud parent 
of a son with extreme intellectual and physical disabilities 
who has become in this great society of ours a contributing 
member, I am delighted to be here this morning to testify in 
favor of the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of 
Persons with Disabilities.
    This is an important component of the worldwide effort to 
advance disability rights. Ratification by the United States 
Senate would mark a major step forward in the effort to end 
discrimination and to promote the rights of as many as 1 
billion men, women, and children with disabilities around the 
world who seek vindication of their preeminent human rights in 
an ever-challenging world.
    As you have heard, a total of 153 countries, including the 
United States, have signed the Convention, and 116 have 
ratified its terms. We literally stand today at the very cusp 
of a new era of worldwide recognition of disability rights. A 
major leap forward in this effort would be accomplished by 
timely U.S. Senate ratification of this Convention.
    It is obvious that the world community has chosen to take 
an important and long overdue step toward bringing people with 
disabilities all over the world into the mainstream of the 
human rights movement by adopting this Convention. I must 
applaud the disability community for its tireless efforts in 
what must have seemed at times to be an uphill battle for 
international recognition of these important rights.
    The Convention represents important principles that as 
Americans we hold dear--basic recognition and equal protection 
of every person under the law, nondiscrimination, the 
fundamental importance of independent living, and the right to 
make basic choices about our lives. We pioneered these 
principles under American law through passage of the Americans 
with Disabilities Act in 1990.
    We in the United States are demonstrating daily that people 
with disabilities can participate fully in our democracy. We 
are demonstrating that society as a whole is richer and better 
off when people with disabilities are included in every aspect 
of our lives.
    It is my hope and expectation that the United States will 
assume an equally important leadership role in helping to 
promote these basic principles worldwide by the ratification of 
this Convention.
    Over 20 years ago while serving as Attorney General, I 
testified before House and Senate committees of this Congress 
in support of the ADA. During those hearings, I acknowledged 
that no piece of legislation could alone change the 
longstanding misperceptions that many people have about 
disability, misperceptions based largely on stereotype, 
ignorance, and fear of what is different.
    Any reshaping of attitudes would have to be the gradual 
result not of words or ideas in the laws, but of bringing 
people with disabilities from the margins of society into the 
mainstream of American life. In our schools, in our workplaces, 
on buses and trains, in our courthouses, restaurants, theaters, 
and congregations where they not only have an absolute right to 
be, but where we have an obligation as fellow human beings to 
welcome them as equals.
    In the years following 1990, we have made remarkable 
progress not only celebrated here at home, but recognized 
abroad. Because of our adoption of the ADA and other disability 
rights legislation, the United States is viewed internationally 
as a pioneering role model for disability rights.
    Despite progress already made, disability as a global issue 
remains near the bottom of the list in many governments when it 
comes to setting their priorities. People with disabilities 
remain among the poorest, least education, the most abused and 
excluded people on earth. We must recognize that the challenges 
we face are intimately linked with the very circumstances of 
economic, social, and political marginalization that affect 
people with disabilities around the world.
    It is important to note that ratification of the Convention 
will require no new domestic legislation and will impose no new 
cost upon U.S. taxpayers. As done in our own ADA, the 
Convention simply ensures nondiscrimination on the basis of 
disability, guaranteeing that persons with disabilities enjoy 
the same rights as other persons.
    Some said that because of America's comprehensive domestic 
protections a treaty on disability would have no relevance in 
our own country. But let us hold on a minute. We are, indeed, 
at this time the most progressive country in the world when it 
comes to the domestic protection of disability rights.
    The universality of rights and fundamental freedoms as 
expressed in our own Declaration of Independence is the 
foundation on which our entire society is based. Respect for 
human rights is also a stated principle of our foreign policy, 
precisely because we recognize that stability, security, and 
economic opportunity in any society presupposes social order 
based on respect for the rights of its citizens.
    Given this history and these values, it would seem natural 
for the United States to assume a leading role, not a passive 
one, in the effort to recognize and enforce an international 
treaty of this kind. As you have heard, misgivings expressed by 
critics of the Convention have already been addressed in 
reservations, understandings, and declarations contained in the 
package submitted by the administration.
    Ratification of the Disability Rights Convention is an 
opportunity for us to export to the world the very best we have 
to offer. This is a chance to use our rich national experience 
in disability rights, which has gained us the respect of the 
world community, to extend the principles embodied in the ADA 
to people with disabilities worldwide who today have no 
domestic protection.
    This is worthy of our leadership. We have everything to 
gain and nothing to lose by playing the role the world expects 
of us. We must ratify this Convention so that we can fulfill 
that role.
    Thank you for the opportunity to be with you this morning.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Thornburgh follows:]

                Prepared Statement of Richard Thornburgh

    It is a distinct pleasure for to me to testify in favor of the 
ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities (the Convention or CRPD) as an important component of the 
worldwide effort to advance disability rights. Ratification by this 
body would mark a major step forward in the effort to end 
discrimination and to promote the rights of as many as 1 billion men, 
women, and children with disabilities around the world who seek 
vindication of their preeminent human rights in an ever-challenging 
world.
    To date, as I last looked, a total of 153 countries (including the 
United States) have signed the Convention and 116 have ratified its 
terms. We literally stand today at the very cusp of a new era of 
worldwide recognition of disability rights. A major leap forward in 
this effort would be accomplished by timely U.S. Senate ratification of 
the Convention.
                                   i.
    The road to this point has been a lengthy one and I think it may be 
useful to review how we have gotten to where we are as a means of 
aiding the process of further progress. In another context, a great 
American jurist, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., once 
observed, ``A page of history is worth a volume of logic,'' and in this 
movement as well I suggest that some history is an appropriate starting 
point.
    As many of you may know, I have been involved in the disability 
movement for many years. I was a founding director of the National 
Organization on Disability back in 1982 and later served as Vice 
Chairman of its international arm, the World Committee on Disability. I 
am also the father of a man with intellectual and physical disability--
my son, Peter, who was seriously brain-injured at the age of 4 months 
in a 1960 automobile accident which tragically took the life of his 
mother, my first wife.
    As Governor of Pennsylvania and Attorney General of the United 
States, I have had the privilege to work in official capacities for the 
inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life. Indeed, 
it was my special privilege to serve as the point person for the 
administration of President George H.W. Bush in the bipartisan effort 
to secure the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 
1990. This work has become a bit of a family affair, as my present 
wife, Ginny, whom I married in 1963, founded the Religion and 
Disability Program of the National Organization on Disability, designed 
to insure spiritual and religious access to persons with physical, 
mental, and intellectual disability. She is now the Director of the 
Interfaith Initiative at the American Association of People with 
Disabilities coordinating efforts by leaders of all faiths to advance 
the cause of disability rights. In her responsibility as Convener of 
the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), she enlisted 26 
religious or religiously affiliated organizations to send a letter of 
support for the Convention to members of this committee. We have thus 
had the great privilege of merging our personal and career objectives 
in this worthy cause.
    It is obvious that the world community has taken an important--and 
long overdue--step toward bringing people with disabilities all over 
the world into the mainstream of the human rights movement by adopting 
this Convention. I must applaud the disability community for its 
tireless efforts in what must have seemed at times to be an uphill 
battle for international recognition of this important principle.
    I know firsthand from my service as an Under Secretary General at 
the United Nations in the immediate post-cold-war era of the long 
struggle to obtain passage of this Convention. The effort had its 
genesis in the 1981 Year of Disabled Persons, followed by the Decade of 
Disabled Persons and the promulgation of the World Programme of Action 
Concerning Disabled Persons, all providing focal points for efforts to 
internationalize concerns about disability rights. I particularly 
recall attending the historic gathering in Montreal in October 1992 of 
the very first International Conference of Ministers Responsible for 
the Status of Persons With Disabilities where 73 leaders of governments 
throughout the world met for the first time to exchange ideas and 
fashion strategies which ultimately led to the adoption of the 
Convention.
    The Convention represents important principles that as Americans we 
hold dear--basic recognition and equal protection of every person under 
the law, nondiscrimination, the fundamental importance of independent 
living, and the right to make basic choices about our lives. We 
pioneered these basic principles under American law through passage of 
the ADA. We in the United States are demonstrating that people with 
disabilities can participate fully in our democracy. We are 
demonstrating that society, as a whole, is richer and better off when 
people with disabilities are included fully in every aspect of life. It 
is my hope and expectation that the United States will assume an 
equally important leadership role in helping to promote these basic 
principles worldwide by the ratification of this Convention.
    Over 20 years ago, while serving as U.S. Attorney General, I 
testified before House and Senate committees of the U.S. Congress in 
support of the ADA. During those hearings I acknowledged that no piece 
of legislation could alone change the longstanding misperceptions that 
many people have about disability--misperceptions based largely on 
stereotype, ignorance, and fear of what is different. Any reshaping of 
attitudes would have to be the gradual result not of the words or ideas 
in the laws, but of bringing people with disabilities from the margins 
of society into the mainstream of American life--in our schools and 
workplaces, on busses and trains, and in our courthouses, restaurants, 
theaters and congregations--where they not only have an absolute right 
to be but where we have an obligation as fellow human beings to welcome 
them as equals.
    The effort to secure passage of the ADA was difficult. Those of us 
who wanted to see it happen were given countless reasons why it 
couldn't be done. We were told that the climate in Congress wasn't 
right, it would be too expensive, too complicated, ineffective, 
impossible to enforce--even that the country in general just wasn't 
ready for it. So we discussed, debated, argued, researched, analyzed, 
negotiated, pleaded, convinced and, ultimately, drafted and passed the 
most progressive disability rights legislation the world had ever seen. 
This legislation, with its innovative concepts such as the need for 
``reasonable accommodation,'' is changing America. It has truly made us 
more representative, more democratic, and more empowering by ending the 
unchecked exclusion of 54 million Americans from our daily lives.
    Of course we still have a long way to go in our own country. The 
ADA isn't perfect and people with disabilities in America continue to 
face serious challenges. Court decisions have sometimes hindered the 
full implementation of the ADA and required legislative responses such 
as the 2008 ADA Amendments Act. Still, in the years following 1990, 
we've made remarkable progress that is not only celebrated here at home 
but also recognized abroad. Because of our adoption of the ADA and 
other disability rights legislation, the United States is viewed 
internationally as a pioneering role model for disability rights. 
Disability activists from other countries have taken the ADA to their 
governments and said, ``This is how it should be done. We need to do 
this here in our country.'' And governments around the world have 
responded. As one who worked hard to gain protection of these rights in 
the United States, I am very proud to see how these basic principles 
are now on the way to being established as a part of international law 
through the adoption of the CRPD. As we overcame so many barriers to 
the enactment and implementation of the ADA, I am confident that we can 
be part of an even greater coalition to bring about worldwide support 
for this Convention as well.
    Despite progress already made, disability as a global issue remains 
near the bottom of the list of priorities in many governments and 
societies. People with disabilities remain among the poorest, least 
educated, and most abused and excluded people on earth. We must 
recognize that the challenges we face are intimately linked with the 
very circumstances of economic, social, and political marginalization 
that affect people with disabilities around the world.
    While the adoption of the CPRD represents a truly significant 
accomplishment for the international community and a great source of 
hope for people with disabilities everywhere, it will obviously not be 
enough. Between the adoption of the Convention and the actual securing 
of the important rights it seeks to guarantee will no doubt lie a long 
and tortuous path which will test the commitment, tenacity, and 
political will of the international community--from national leaders to 
grassroots advocacy organizations to individual citizens bent upon 
justice for all.
    However, we must also keep in mind that the Convention can be a 
strong tool--as well as an inspiration--for civil society around the 
world. NGOs and advocates will have a new legal framework within which 
to push for reforms based on legal obligations.
                                  ii.
    Let me address for a moment the painful and, I must admit, somewhat 
puzzling question of the seeming reluctance of some in our own Nation 
to continue our lead role in this international effort. Let's look at 
some of the questions and concerns that have been raised about this 
Convention as it has reached this body for ratification.
    To begin with, it has been argued that disability rights are more 
appropriately addressed a solely a domestic concern, given the 
complexity of the issues involved. In other words, this really isn't an 
appropriate subject for international protection. Certainly, good 
domestic legislation in every country would be the ideal solution. But 
since many countries don't have such protections, it does not seem 
reasonable to expect that this will change dramatically without 
international pressure. The fact is, for many countries, international 
conventions have already served as a catalyst for the development of 
important domestic protections in many other areas.
    As a practical matter, the United States will have much more 
authority to speak out about these and other forms of discrimination 
against people with disabilities worldwide if we agree to abide by the 
same international scrutiny at home. We already have laws in place that 
are consistent with the CRPD. But, it is correctly noted that by 
ratifying the Convention, the United States agrees to report regularly 
to an international advisory body. We have nothing to hide. We can only 
gain from participating in the process of international review. 
Moreover, we should not be so proud as to think that we cannot learn 
from other countries about how to meet the challenge of providing even 
better opportunities for people with disabilities.
    Some have looked at the final text of the Convention and found it 
lacking in strict, enforceable protections. Some say that it lacks the 
kind of detail that we fought so hard to include in the ADA and that we 
have found so essential for the enforcement of basic rights in the 
United States. We must keep in mind that a human rights convention is a 
legal instrument that must apply consistently around the world--in 
countries rich and poor, in countries with widely varying legal 
systems, in many countries where the idea of full participation for 
people with disabilities may be radically new and untested. The 
flexibility of this Convention is its strength--not its weakness. It 
lays down the core values and principles that are essential to ending 
discrimination against people with disabilities in any society. It 
provides governments with guidance and direction now lacking under the 
general provisions of international law. Article 9, for example, 
requires governments to ``take appropriate measures to ensure to 
persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the 
physical environment, to transportation, to information and 
communications . . . and to other facilities and services open or 
provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.'' Article 24 
recognizes the rights of persons with disabilities to education and 
requires governments to provide ``an inclusive education system at all 
levels . . . [e]nabling persons with disabilities to participate 
effectively in a free society.''
    The Convention provides governments with core, minimum standards 
needed to make essential reforms without locking different countries 
into one particular approach or another. As noted, the Convention 
creates a Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that 
will review reports of governments and will issue general 
recommendations about how to bring about full compliance with the 
Convention. Through this process of interpretation, governments at 
every level of economic and social development can receive guidance 
about steps they can take to bring about enforcement of the Convention.
    At the same time, it is important to note that ratification of the 
Convention will require no new domestic legislation and will impose no 
new costs upon U.S. taxpayers. As does our own ADA, the Convention 
simply ensures nondiscrimination on the basis of disability, 
guaranteeing that persons with disabilities enjoy the same rights as 
other persons.
    Finally, some have said that, because of America's comprehensive 
domestic protections, a treaty on disability would have no relevance in 
our own country. But, let's hold on a minute. We are indeed at this 
time the most progressive country in the world when it comes to the 
domestic protection of disability rights. The universality of rights 
and fundamental freedoms--as expressed in our Declaration of 
Independence--is the foundation on which our entire society is based. 
Respect for human rights is also a stated principle of our foreign 
policy--precisely because we recognize that stability, security, and 
economic opportunity in any society presuppose a social order based on 
respect for the rights of its citizens. Given this history and these 
values, it would seem natural for the United States to assume a leading 
role--not a passive one--in the effort to recognize and enforce an 
international treaty of this kind.
    Misgivings expressed by critics of the Convention have already been 
addressed in reservations, understandings and declarations (RUDs) 
contained in the package submitted by the administration. By addressing 
federalism, providing a zone of private action protected by the 
Constitution and declaring the Convention to be non-self-executing, 
these RUDs protect U.S. sovereignty and recognize the Convention as a 
nondiscrimination instrument, similar to our own ADA.
    Ratification of the Disability Rights Convention is an opportunity 
to export to the world the very best we have to offer. This is a chance 
to use our rich national experience in disability rights--which has 
gained us the respect of the world community--to extend the principles 
embodied in the ADA to the hundreds of millions of people with 
disabilities worldwide who today have no domestic protection. This is 
worthy of our leadership. We have everything to gain and nothing to 
lose by playing the role the world expects of us. We must ratify the 
Convention so that we can fulfill that role.
                                  iii.
    Just as in the case of the ADA, we must recognize that the 
Convention will not provide instant legal solutions which can effect 
immediate changes in attitudes and cultural perceptions; nor will it 
dispel the ignorance that leads to discrimination and human rights 
abuses of people with disabilities. What it will do is create a 
permanent place for disability within the human rights framework. It 
will put disability issues on the radar screen of governments and 
societies as a legitimate human rights concern to which they must pay 
heed. It will provide guidance and standards and create legal 
obligations for governments to respect the rights of this sizable 
population. It can serve as a powerful advocacy tool for the global 
disability movement to promote inclusion and equality of opportunity.
    Before closing let me say a word, in particular, about the 
developing nations of the world wherein, it is estimated, some 80 
percent of the world's disabled population lives. Most of these persons 
are at the margin of their respective societies. Priority concerns of 
just surviving--combating hunger, securing shelter, and eking out a 
daily existence--unfortunately take present precedence over concerns 
for people with disabilities.
    It is sometimes said that, in nations struggling with a full agenda 
of political and economic problems and the effort to achieve basic 
human rights for all their citizens, the interests of persons with 
disabilities are likely to be set to one side for ``future 
consideration,'' i.e., when these other more important matters have 
been addressed.
    On the contrary, I would suggest that what responsible leaders of 
developing nations need to realize is the unique opportunity they have 
to embed disability rights in their emerging institutions as part of 
their development efforts, to build an infrastructure of government, 
economy, and human rights that includes and respects the interests of 
persons with disabilities from the very beginning. For it is no 
exaggeration to say that the way a society treats its citizens with 
disabilities is a valid measure of the quality of life and respect for 
human dignity in that society.
    Even after ratification and implementation of the Convention, 
change will be gradual--and perhaps painfully slow, to be sure, but 
these represent important first steps we can take toward promoting 
change on a global scale. This Convention can help all of us to focus 
world attention on those millions of people worldwide whose rights have 
been ignored for far too long. Let's be about the business of seeing 
that those rights are honored, and implemented, now and forever more, 
by providing timely ratification of this important Convention.

    Senator Coons [presiding]. Thank you, Mr. Thornburgh.
    Mr. Wodatch.

   STATEMENT OF JOHN WODATCH, FORMER CHIEF OF THE DISABILITY 
   RIGHTS SECTION, CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF 
                    JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC

    Mr. Wodatch. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the 
committee.
    Thank you for your invitation to present my views this 
morning, and I ask that my full statement be submitted for the 
record.
    Senator Coons. Without objection.
    Mr. Wodatch. I come before you this morning to urge you to 
support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons 
with Disabilities. During my 42-year tenure with the Federal 
Government, I worked on disability rights issues for both 
Republican and Democratic administrations. I witnessed 
firsthand the strong bipartisan support for disability rights 
that is our Nation's tradition.
    I authored the first comprehensive disability rights 
regulations, served as a member of the White House team under 
President George H.W. Bush that negotiated the ADA, and then, 
with the help of Attorney General Thornburgh, led the 
enforcement of the ADA at the Department of Justice, and then 
recently served as a member of the U.S. delegation that 
negotiated this very disabilities Convention.
    The disabilities Convention is modeled on the disability 
rights laws of the United States. It adopts the successful and 
balanced approach of U.S. Federal disability rights law dating 
back to 1973, and it embodies the core principles of 
nondiscrimination and equality of opportunity.
    The treaty seeks to empower persons with disabilities to be 
independent, to claim responsibility for their lives, and to be 
able to make their own choices.
    In 2001, the George W. Bush administration charged the U.S. 
delegation that was going to the U.N. to deal with the ad hoc 
committee that was considering the formulation of this treaty 
with two main tasks--to provide assistance in the development 
of the new treaty and to ensure that the treaty reflects the 
basic concepts of American disability law. We successfully 
followed President Bush's directions. The disabilities 
Convention follows U.S. principles, ensuring that citizens and 
persons with disabilities have the same rights as other 
citizens.
    The package of three reservations, five understandings, and 
a declaration proposed by the administration are appropriate 
and necessary. These RUDs will ensure that the treaty will 
require no new Federal laws and no new or revised State laws. 
The compliance with our own disability laws, including the 
definition of ``disability,'' will constitute compliance with 
the treaty, and the treaty will give rise to no new individual 
rights.
    These RUDs also ensure that ratification will have no 
impact on the Federal budget and will maintain the sovereignty 
of the United States and the prerogatives of our States. 
Nothing in the treaty undermines U.S. sovereignty. By the terms 
of the treaty itself, the disabilities committee, which has 
been much debated this morning, is advisory only. Its 
suggestions, observations, and opinions are not binding and 
cannot compel any action in the United States.
    And if the treaty should be amended, any new amendments 
will not apply to the United States unless the United States 
specifically and formally consents to the changes. Nothing in 
the treaty itself also changes or undermines parental rights in 
the United States. In fact, the treaty recognizes the primacy 
of the family.
    It calls the family, and this is a quote from the treaty, 
``the natural and fundamental group unit of society'' and says 
that ``it is entitled to protection and assistance.''
    The reservations on federalism and private conduct ensure 
that parental rights in this country, which are established 
mostly at the State and local level, remain unchanged. These 
reservations are eminently reasonable and are compatible with 
the object and purpose of the treaty. And once included in the 
Senate resolution of advice and consent, these reservations 
will themselves become law.
    I also strongly believe that the U.S. ratification of the 
disability treaty is in the best interests of the United 
States. The result of our ratification over time will be a 
benefit to all Americans with disabilities and their families, 
including veterans, who work, study, travel, serve, retire, or 
live abroad.
    Ratification of the treaty will also enable the United 
States to provide leadership on disability issues, ensuring 
that international implementation hews closely to the balanced 
approach of American disability rights law. Our failure to 
ratify the Disability Convention, which so clearly follows the 
pattern of our own disability rights laws and programs, has 
hampered the position of the United States as a world leader on 
disability rights issues. Ratification will enable the United 
States to share our experiences with other ratifying nations as 
they shape emerging disability rights policies and laws in 
their own countries.
    Further, the United States will seek a place on the U.N. 
disabilities committee, which is only open to experts from 
ratifying countries, and give us the potential to play a 
valuable role in shaping the work of that committee. The 
disabilities Convention has been ratified by 116 nations and 
the European Union. The time for Senate action to ratify the 
treaty is now.
    When he signed the ADA on July 26, 1990, President George 
Bush said, ``Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come 
tumbling down.'' The words and concepts that he signed into law 
that day now form the basis of the disabilities treaty. It is 
time for the United States to reposition itself as a world 
leader to help bring down these walls of exclusion for all 
nations around the globe and help make the world an accessible 
place for Americans with disabilities, including our veterans.
    I thank you for the opportunity to participate with you 
today.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Wodatch follows:]

                 Prepared Statement of John L. Wodatch

    Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for your 
invitation to present my views to the committee. I come before you this 
morning to urge you to support ratification of the Convention on the 
Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
    I have a long history of work on disability rights issues. I have 
witnessed firsthand the strong bipartisan support for disability rights 
that is out Nation's tradition. I retired last July from service in the 
Federal executive branch after 42 years of service. During that time I 
was the author of the Federal Government's first comprehensive 
disability rights regulations, regulations implementing Section 504 of 
the Rehabilitation Act, first issued in 1977. I was fortunate to work 
for Attorney General Dick Thornburgh during our Nation's consideration 
of the Americans with Disabilities Act and served as a member of the 
White House team under President George H.W. Bush that negotiated the 
ADA. I then oversaw development of the ADA regulations and served as 
the head of the new unit at the Department of Justice that was created 
to implement the ADA. I also served as a member of the U.S. delegation 
that negotiated the Convention on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities.
     i. the disabilities convention and u.s. disability rights law
    The Disabilities Convention is modeled on the disability rights 
laws of the United States and adopts the successful and balanced 
approach of U.S. Federal disability rights law dating back to 1977. It 
embodies the traditional American ideals that form the basis of the 
Americans with Disabilities Act and other U.S. disability rights laws. 
These include the core principles of nondiscrimination and equality of 
opportunity. The treaty seeks to empower persons with disabilities to 
be independent, to claim personal responsibility for their own lives, 
and to be able to make their own choices.
    The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, is a comprehensive 
civil rights law protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in 
the United States. Since it was signed into law in 1990 by President 
George H.W. Bush, it has literally changed the landscape of this 
country, opening up everyday American life to persons with 
disabilities.
    The ADA is, however, just one part of a rich and varied series of 
Federal protections of the rights of person with disabilities. The 
Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 ensures that Federal buildings will 
be accessible according to strict Federal design standards. The 
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that children with 
disabilities will receive a free, appropriate education. The Fair 
Housing Act ensures that people with disabilities will have accessible 
housing. The Air Carrier Access Act opens air travel to persons with 
disabilities. The Help America Vote Act, as well as the Voting 
Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984, provide for 
an accessible electoral process, including accessible polling places. 
The ADA and Title V of the Rehabilitation Act provide a comprehensive 
framework, covering employment, transportation, public accommodations, 
telephone service, and all the activities of State and local 
governments to persons with disabilities.
    These laws have proven to be a success because they are grounded in 
nondiscrimination principles, and they provide a balanced approach to 
accessibility. Each requirement is tempered by limitations that reflect 
the difficulty and costs of achieving accessibility. Thus the 
obligation to make reasonable accommodation to employees is limited by 
undue hardship. Businesses do not have to make changes to their 
programs and services if they are too costly or would fundamentally 
change the nature of the program or service. Small employers (under 15 
employees) are exempted from all requirements as are churches, other 
religious entities, and purely private clubs.
    I was fortunate to be a member of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. 
Ad Hoc Committee that was considering the formulation of a disabilities 
Convention. The committee deliberated from 2001 to 2006, when the 
treaty was adopted by the U.N. The Bush administration charged us with 
two main tasks--to provide assistance in the development of the new 
treaty and to ensure that the treaty reflect the core concepts of 
American disability law. We successfully followed President Bush's 
directions: the Disabilities Convention follows our U.S. principles. 
Its focus is nondiscrimination, ensuring that persons with disabilities 
enjoy the same rights as other citizens. Like the ADA, its rights are 
tempered by limitations. Reasonable accommodation is required but only 
if the modification is necessary and appropriate and only if it does 
not impose a disproportionate or undue burden. While the treaty does 
not itself contain a definition of disability, its guidelines for what 
constitutes a person with a disability conform closely to the 
definitions found in U.S law. In fact, the revised ADA definition of a 
person with a disability, adopted in 2008 in the Americans with 
Disabilities Act Amendments Act, and signed into law by President Bush, 
fully comply with the concepts of the treaty.
    And the comprehensive nature of the treaty mirrors the U.S. 
approach to disability rights. Both recognize that persons with 
disabilities will not be able to enjoy equal opportunity unless there 
is broad coverage. Having an education loses its meaning if jobs are 
foreclosed to students with disabilities. Nondiscrimination in 
employment will not be meaningful unless persons can get to work on 
accessible transportation. Having a job will lose its meaning if 
persons are unable to enjoy the fruits of their labor, from dining at a 
restaurant, going to a movie, or traveling across the country. Thus, 
then, like U.S. law, the Disabilities Convention is comprehensive in 
its approach. It addresses access to facilities, political 
participation, access to justice, access to education, employment, 
health care, participation in public and cultural life, recreation, 
leisure activities, and sports. It upholds freedom of expression, 
access to information, the ability to live independently in one's own 
community, and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman, or 
degrading treatment.
    In sum, the Disabilities Convention is an embodiment of the 
nondiscrimination principles developed in the United States. Its 
principles and, indeed, its language, come directly from U.S. law.
           ii. reservations, understandings, and declarations
    The administration's submission of the Disabilities Convention, 
which includes the President's letter of transmittal and the Secretary 
of State's report, makes clear that the Convention is exclusively a 
nondiscrimination treaty, i.e., the Disabilities Convention seeks to 
ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same rights as everyone 
else and are given the same opportunities to live productive lives. The 
Secretary's report includes reservations, understandings, and a 
declaration (RUDs) recommended for inclusion in the Senate's resolution 
of advice and consent. Inclusion of these RUDs will facilitate 
ratification. Under the RUDs, U.S. obligations under the Convention 
will go no further than existing U.S. law.
    The package of three reservations, five understandings, and one 
declaration, contained in the Secretary's report, maintains U.S. 
sovereignty and makes clear the extent of our obligations under the 
treaty and are thus an essential element of ratification. With the 
inclusion of this RUD package:

          No new Federal laws will be required to comply with the 
        treaty;
          No State laws will have to be revised;
          Compliance with our existing, rich panoply of disability laws 
        will constitute compliance with the treaty;
          Our definitions of disability will continue in force; and
          No new individual rights and no individually enforceable 
        rights will be created. These RUDs also ensure that 
        ratification will have no impact on the Federal budget. Thus, I 
        recommend that the Senate Resolution of Advice and Consent to 
        Ratification contain the nine RUDs proposed in the Secretary's 
        Report.

    Perhaps the two most important reservations are those recommended 
on federalism and on private conduct. A number of treaty provisions 
cover matters that are the province of State law. For example, 
education, the exercise of legal capacity, civil commitment, birth 
registration, living in the community, and marriage and family 
relationships are areas that are governed in the United States under 
State law. While many State and local laws and regulations clearly 
comply with the provisions of the Disabilities Convention on these 
issues, some state and local standards can be interpreted as less 
rigorous than the treaty would require. Thus, a reservation that would 
preserve the existing balance between Federal and State jurisdiction 
over these matters is appropriate and necessary.
    The federalism reservation ensures that the obligations undertaken 
by the United States upon ratification would be implemented in a manner 
consistent with the existing allocation of authority between the 
Federal Government and the 50 states. The federalism reservation would 
limit our obligations under the treaty to areas covered by Federal law 
and would require no changes to State and local law because of the 
Convention's provisions.
    The proposed reservation on certain private conduct is also 
important. A number of Federal disability rights laws contain 
exemptions in their coverage. Title I of the ADA applies to all 
employers with 15 or more employees. Title III of the ADA does not 
apply to churches and other religious entities and certain private 
clubs. The Fair Housing Act does not apply to most individuals' homes 
or private home construction. Similarly, the U.S. Constitution and 
Federal law recognize areas of private activity that are not governed 
by the laws of the United States. It is thus necessary and appropriate 
to include a reservation that limits coverage of the treaty and 
excludes those areas of private conduct that are protected by the U.S. 
Constitution.
    Similarly significant is the declaration that the Convention on the 
Rights of Persons with Disabilities is non-self-executing. This 
declaration ensures that the treaty itself does not give rise to 
individually enforceable rights and cannot be directly enforced in the 
U.S. courts. It ensures the primacy of U.S. domestic law and remedies 
on disability issues.
    In the last several weeks, the treaty has been criticized for 
undermining U.S. sovereignty and for harming the rights of parents of 
children with disabilities. These concerns can be fully addressed by 
the terms of the treaty, by the RUDs proposed by the administration, 
and by the clarifications contained in the Secretary's report.
    Some have raised alarms over the existence of the Disabilities 
Committee created by the treaty. This committee, a group of 18 experts 
elected by the nation's that have ratified the treaty, meets twice each 
year to review the reports submitted by those countries that have 
ratified the treaty. By the terms of the treaty itself this committee 
is advisory only. The committee is authorized only to respond to 
reports with ``suggestions and general recommendations.'' The 
committee's suggestions, observations, and opinions are not binding and 
cannot compel any action in the United States.
    The criticism that the treaty will undermine parental 
decisionmaking is misplaced. In fact, the treaty places great value on 
the role of the family. The Preamble to the treaty is particularly 
eloquent on this issue. It states: ``(T)he family is the natural and 
fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by 
society and the State, and that persons with disabilities and their 
family members should receive the necessary protection and assistance 
to enable families to contribute toward the full and equal enjoyment of 
the rights of persons with disabilities.''
    The treaty specifically requires ratifying nations to provide early 
and comprehensive information, services, and support to children with 
disabilities and their families. It seeks to maintain the sanctity of 
the family unit by requiring that children should not be separated from 
their parents on the basis of the disability of either the parents or 
the children.
    Most importantly, the overarching requirement of Article 23 of the 
treaty is one of nondiscrimination. The Convention, like Title II of 
the ADA, prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in 
matters of family and parenthood. Further, the proposed reservation on 
federalism ensures that parental responsibility and authority, which 
are matters of State and local law, will remain governed by domestic 
law in the United States. Also, the reservation on private conduct 
ensures that privacy in family matters, which is protected by the U.S. 
Constitution, will not be encumbered by the treaty. The Secretary's 
report specifically addresses family rights in its discussion of 
Article 23 (at p. 53) and notes that freedom from governmental 
interference in certain private conduct is among the fundamental values 
of our free and democratic society.
    One other concern that has been raised warns of a threat of a 
national registry of children with disabilities. The treaty does not 
require a national registry of births in the United States. Birth 
registration is handled by the States, which are subject to the 
disability nondiscrimination requirements of Title II of the ADA and 
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. State laws on birth registration 
require that each child be given a birth certificate at birth--thus 
they are recognized as a person, protected by law. The treaty does not 
require a separate registration of children with disabilities, 
something the United States has consistently refused to support. 
Therefore, the treaty will not result in any change in U.S. or State 
law or practice. However, the treaty will provide much-needed 
protection in other countries where there is no provision for birth 
certificates or birth registration for children with disabilities. In 
particular, it will help protect against the horrible practice of 
infanticide of children born with disabilities (a practice that can be 
facilitated through the denial of birth certificates or registration to 
disabled babies), and it will require equal access to immunizations, 
education, food, and other essential needs for these children.
    These reservations are eminently reasonable and are compatible with 
the object and purpose of the treaty. And once included in the Senate 
Resolution of Advice and Consent, these reservations become the law. 
While other ratifying nations may seek to object to a reservation, no 
nation nor any international body has the ability or power to sever, 
amend, or overturn such a reservation.
    One other issue that has raised concerns about the Disabilities 
Convention is how it may apply to the issue of family planning and 
abortion. The treaty affirms the inherent right to life and recognizes 
the ``dignity and worth'' of persons with disabilities. It establishes 
for the first time internationally that ratifying nations cannot 
discriminatorily deny health care, health services, or food and fluids 
on the basis of disability. During the debate at the Ad Hoc Committee 
of the U.N., the treaty chairman, Ambassador Don McKay of New Zealand, 
stated that the treaty does not create a right to abortion. The 
Secretary's report confirms this interpretation at p. 61 and makes 
clear that Article 25 does not address the matter of abortion and does 
not affect United States law with regard to abortion.
                     iii. benefits of ratification
    So why ratify? I strongly believe that ratification of the 
Disabilities Convention is in the best interests of the United States, 
provides protections for Americans with disabilities, and promotes U.S. 
business interests.
    Our failure to ratify the Disabilities Convention, which so clearly 
follows the pattern of disability rights laws and programs pioneered in 
the United States, has hampered the position of the United States as a 
world leader on disability rights issues. While the ADA will continue 
to be the linchpin of U.S. domestic nondiscrimination policy, the 
international community uses the treaty as the basis for legal and 
policy approaches to disability policy. Ratification will enable the 
United States to have an official place at the table and share our 
experience with other ratifying nations as they shape emerging 
disability rights policies and laws in their countries. It will enable 
us to seek a place on the Disabilities Committee (which is only open to 
experts from countries that have ratified) and focus the efforts of the 
committee on fundamental and important issues.
    Ratification will also allow the United States to take a more 
proactive role in the protection of U.S citizens abroad. Persons with 
disabilities, including our veterans, now work, study, travel, serve, 
and retire across the world. But our citizens still face limited 
opportunities and architectural barriers. An active U.S presence on 
implementation of the Disabilities Convention will help ensure that our 
citizens and servicemembers will encounter fewer architectural barriers 
and a more welcoming environment.
    Ratification of the treaty will also help U.S. businesses take 
advantage of the potential benefits of the treaty. Estimates of the 
number of persons with disabilities across the world now reach 1 
billion persons. As these persons receive opportunities in their 
countries, they will need accessible devices, from wheelchairs and 
other mobility aids and services to new technologies, including smart 
phones and accessible software for their computers. Many of these 
products are engineered, made, or sold by U.S. corporations, who will 
benefit from an active U.S. presence to reach this emerging new source 
of revenue.
    Ratification and the concomitant reemergence of U.S. leadership 
will also help American multinational corporations level the playing 
field. For the past 22 years American companies have followed a number 
of domestic requirements, including reasonable accommodation for their 
workers and accessible facilities for their customers. Unfortunately, 
their foreign counterparts did not have to follow such a regimen. 
Ratification of the Convention will enable the U.S. more actively to 
ensure that other nations that have ratified the Convention actually 
take the steps to enforce the treaty's accessibility and employment 
provisions and provide a level playing field for American companies.
    Additionally, ratification and an active American presence can 
result in economies of scale for U.S. companies. Many U.S. 
multinational companies, including quick service restaurants and hotel 
chains, create and implement standard design plans for their U.S. 
facilities, but face different requirements for their building in other 
countries. Ratification will enable the United States to push for 
consistent accessible standards for buildings and create the ability 
for U.S. multinational companies to follow one template for their 
accessibility requirements worldwide, resulting in cost savings.
    Ratification of the Convention presents an opportunity for the 
Senate and the President to reaffirm the traditional American values of 
the treaty, nondiscrimination and equality of opportunity, and provides 
a forum to advance these values worldwide. The package of RUDs sent 
forward by the administration and the specific interpretations found in 
the Secretary's report address the concerns that have been identified 
by outside observers regarding safeguarding American sovereignty and 
U.S. law.
    The Disabilities Convention has been ratified by 115 nations. The 
time for Senate action to ratify this treaty is now. When he signed the 
ADA on July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush said: ``Let the 
shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.'' The words and 
concepts that he signed into law are now in the laws and constitutions 
of countries around the world and form the basis for the Disabilities 
Convention. It is time for the United States to reposition itself as a 
world leader to help bring down these walls of exclusion for all 
nations around the globe and help make the world accessible for 
Americans with disabilities, including our veterans, and for American 
multinational businesses.

    Senator Coons. Thank you, Mr. Wodatch.
    Dr. Farris. Dr. Farris. Forgive me.

STATEMENT OF MICHAEL FARRIS, CHANCELLOR, PATRICK HENRY COLLEGE, 
                        PURCELLVILLE, VA

    Dr. Farris. Oh, that is OK. Thank you for the honor of 
being invited to testify before this committee.
    I would ask that my full remarks be submitted for the 
record.
    Senator Coons. Without objection.
    Dr. Farris. I am the chancellor of Patrick Henry College, 
where I teach constitutional law. And recently, after finishing 
an LLM in public international law with the University of 
London, I started teaching public international law as well.
    There is no doubt about the appropriateness of the 
aspirations of this treaty. My mother has multiple sclerosis, 
has been in a wheelchair on a growing basis for about 40 years. 
I have pushed her around buildings here in this city and in 
France, Switzerland, and Austria, and there is no doubt on a 
practical level about the United States leadership on the 
access for persons with disabilities.
    But the question is whether or not a treaty is being fairly 
examined as a treaty here today, as opposed to an aspirational 
statement. This is not like the Universal Declaration of Human 
Rights, which was an aspirational statement by the U.N. in the 
1940s. This is a binding treaty.
    We don't have to worry necessarily about this committee 
forcing American law to change. We ought to worry about 
Americans forcing us to comply with the terms of the treaty 
because when we ratify a treaty, we undertake a binding legal 
obligation to live up to its terms.
    The thing that the United States should lead on in this 
area is we ought to be the leading nation in the world in 
compliance with treaties--fully, fairly, completely. And if we 
don't intend to comply with a treaty in full, we ought not to 
ratify it in the first place. If all we are going to do is 
king's X and say the only thing we are going to do with this 
treaty is follow existing law, we are doing what Professor 
Henkin, who is one of the leading experts in the world on this 
subject, has said.
    And I quote, ``Reservations designed to reject any 
obligation to rise above existing law and practice are of 
dubious propriety. If states generally entered such 
reservations, the Convention would be futile.''
    In fact, one nation has entered a reservation to this 
treaty that says exactly that. The Islamic Republic of Iran 
declares that it does not consider itself bound by any 
provisions of the Convention which may be incompatible with its 
applicable rules.
    Eight nations in the world have objected to that 
reservation--Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, 
Latvia, Mexico, and Portugal--precisely because that approach 
to treaty laws, ``we are only going to obey what we want to 
obey,'' is incompatible with the object and purposes of the 
treaty.
    Contrary to what the person from the Department of Justice 
said, Article 7 will, in fact, require a change of our law if 
we are going to live up to the treaty. If we don't have any 
intention of living up to a treaty, let us just put a 
reservation in and say we don't have any intention of changing 
any of our laws.
    We have no such reservation, and until we do, we have to 
look and see what the treaty says and what do the words mean. 
Article 7 changes the law, and we would have a duty to amend 
the IDEA to live up to its standards.
    And that means today under the IDEA, parents have the final 
say for their kids, not the Government. Under Article 7 of this 
treaty, the Government has the final say for kids.
    The reason the IDEA works to protect children is because 
the Government that is often stingy and stubborn and slow in 
complying with the needs of special needs kids is because they 
know they have got parents with real rights coming after them.
    And if they don't like what--the parents don't like what 
the Government is suggesting, the parents have real authority. 
Article 7 robs them of their real authority. Again, unless we 
are just simply going to cross our fingers and say king's X, we 
really don't mean what the words of this treaty says.
    Article 7, clearly, it is not a nondiscrimination 
provision, as claimed by the person from the Department of 
Justice. That is just simply not what it says. We ought to read 
the language of Article 7. It requires the best interests of 
the child standard to be implemented in every decision. What 
that means is the Government, rather than parents, get to 
decide what is best for children.
    And if we think that that is good for children with special 
needs and disabilities in this country, we don't understand 
what is appropriate for American children. We need parents as 
the empowered advocates, and this treaty will take away that 
empowerment.
    Nothing is going to happen in any other country until those 
countries' domestic law incorporates the aspirations of this 
treaty. Treaties do not build wheelchair ramps. They won't help 
any American traveling. What will help those Americans is when 
those other nations implement the provisions in their domestic 
law and practice.
    Until that happens, this is all a very expensive and very 
dangerous exercise in celebrating our aspirations. We will not 
do anything of substance, and we will do dangerous things 
instead.
    Thank you, Your Honor.
    [The prepared statement of Dr. Farris follows:]

                  Prepared Statement of Michael Farris

    Mr. Chairman, thank you for the honor of being invited to testify 
before this committee.
    My name is Michael Farris. I am the Chancellor of Patrick Henry 
College where I teach Constitutional Law, Public International Law, and 
coach our six-time national champion moot court team. I earned my Juris 
Doctorate from Gonzaga University back in 1976 and my LL.M. in Public 
International Law just last year from the University of London. I am 
also the Chairman and Founder of the Home School Legal Defense 
Association--the largest homeschooling advocacy group in the world.
    There are three categories of arguments that I bring in support of 
the view that the United States Senate should not ratify the U.N. 
Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.
    1. The promises made by the supporters of the treaty concerning the 
impact both on Americans and on disabled persons in other countries are 
clearly false and callously misleading.
    2. The changes to American law that will be required to comply with 
the provisions of this treaty are profound and utterly unacceptable. 
Specifically, the changes regarding the rights of parents who have 
children with disabilities--which includes thousands of homeschooling 
families--are absolutely inconsistent with the IDEA and the basic 
constitutional principles of parental rights.
    3. The ratification of this treaty would constitute the most 
dangerous departure from the principles of American sovereignty and 
personal liberty in the history of the United States Senate.
    the proponents of this treaty make false and misleading promises
    The advocates of this U.N. treaty promise two kinds of alluring 
benefits that will supposedly result from Senate ratification. First, 
it will help disabled Americans traveling abroad. Second, it will give 
the United States greater moral authority to coax unwilling states into 
appropriate treatment of disabled persons within such states.
    Neither of these claims have any foundation in law or in fact.
    Let me explain why I take these false and misleading claims quite 
personally.
    My mother has had multiple sclerosis for over 40 years. I have had 
the honor of pushing my mother's wheel chair through the Halls of 
Congress as well as through museums, castles, and cathedrals in 
Switzerland, Austria, and France. There is no doubt that the United 
States leads the whole world in providing appropriate access to persons 
with disabilities.
    We lead--not because international law has required us to do so--
rather; we lead because in the United States we believe that every 
single person is endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable 
rights. And it is that belief system, and not international law, which 
will continue to provide Americans with disabilities with any necessary 
changes to the law in the years ahead.
    I deeply resent the attempt by the advocates of this treaty to 
mislead members of the disabled community with the false promise that 
the U.S. ratification of this treaty will lead to material improvements 
when Americans with disabilities travel to other nations.
    U.S. ratification of this treaty creates absolutely no rights for 
Americans with disabilities when they travel abroad. It is an utterly 
false contention. If the United States becomes party to a treaty, all 
of the legal consequences which flow from this act of ratification will 
be limited to the territory of the United States. There are no 
extraterritorial rights created for American travelers, businessmen, 
servicemembers, or veterans.
    This is the nature of this kind of treaty. See, Article 29, Vienna 
Convention on the Law of Treaties. It is a promise from the state party 
to change its own laws and practices so that disabled persons will have 
greater access and equality.
    If an American were traveling in Portugal, for example, he or she 
would receive no claim whatsoever to improved access from Portugal by 
virtue of American ratification of this treaty. Portugal's obligation 
to disabled persons arises from Portugal's own ratification of this 
treaty--assuming that it lives up to its obligation to enact compliant 
domestic law.
    It is equally disingenuous to claim that U.S. ratification will 
lead to improved treatment for disabled persons from other countries. 
This is especially true in light of the package of reservations that 
the State Department proposes.
    The proponents of this treaty, together with the proposed 
reservations, are attempting to lead the Senate to believe that the 
United States is already fully compliant with this Convention. 
Professor Louis Henkin writing in the American Journal of International 
Law criticizes this approach:

          Reservations designed to reject any obligation to rise above 
        existing law and practice are of dubious propriety: if states 
        generally entered such reservations, the Convention would be 
        futile. The object and purpose of the human rights conventions, 
        it would seem, are to promote respect for human rights by 
        having countries--mutually--assume legal obligations to respect 
        and ensure recognized rights in accordance with international 
        standards. Even friends of the United States have objected that 
        its reservations are incompatible with that object and purpose 
        and are therefore invalid.
          . . . By adhering to human rights conventions subject to 
        these reservations, the United States, it is charged, is 
        pretending to assume international obligations but in fact is 
        undertaking nothing.\1\

    In light of this approach, the United States will not be sending 
any kind of signal worth sending. The message will not be that other 
nations need to match our comprehensive package of state and federal 
laws concerning the proper treatment of disabled persons. Rather, the 
message will be that treaties are for show and have no more impact than 
you want them to have.
    The United States should lead the world in only ratifying treaties 
with which we intend to fully, faithfully, and vigorously comply. We 
should not lead the world in cheap and compromised promises.
    The fact that no sensible person would dare to suggest that we 
ratify this treaty without this class of reservations is proof that 
this treaty is simply too dangerous to ratify.
    The way for the United States to continue to lead the world in this 
area is to ensure that American law and practice live up to the 
promises of the Declaration of Independence rather than the amorphous 
standards of a committee of 18 experts in Geneva.
    International law that is not translated into domestic law and 
practice is nearly worthless.
    If International Law actually led to greater rights for the 
citizens of other nations, then why are North Koreans still deprived of 
any semblance of any human right? That nation has ratified five major 
human rights treaties and enforces none of them.
    Why do Germany and Sweden ban homeschooling and persecute and 
harass homeschooling parents despite their ratification of human rights 
treaties which promise that the rights of parents to choose 
alternatives to public education are prior to the claims of the state?
    How has American leadership and example in ratifying human rights 
instruments led to any help for German or Swedish homeschoolers? In 
fact, this administration is seeking to deport a German homeschooling 
family that was awarded asylum by an administrative law judge. What has 
America done of any substance to help those in the concentration camps 
of North Korea?
    Leadership comes not from ratification of treaties--it comes from 
effective action. Human rights treaties are empty promises that do 
little more than guarantee the right of a professional class of 
international bureaucrats to full employment and their right to travel 
to conferences where they shake their heads and ultimately write a 
report in diplomatic code that does little good for anyone at all.
    U.S. ratification of this treaty has no extraterritorial 
application for our citizens whatsoever. It is a fraudulent charade to 
claim otherwise.
          this treaty requires radical changes to american law
    The most basic rule of international law is pacta sunt servanda--
agreements must be kept. Ratification of the UNCRPD requires the United 
States to act in good faith--and to conform our law to the standards 
set forth in this U.N. treaty.
    The proposed declaration that this treaty is non-self-executing 
does not change this duty in any way. Such a declaration simply removes 
the possibility of direct judicial imposition of the provisions of the 
treaty. The United States has made a solemn promise that we will change 
our statutory law to conform to the requirements of the treaty. If we 
fail to do so, we are in breach of our international legal obligations.
    I want to focus on one area of the required changes in American 
law--the impact that the UNCRPD would have on the rights of parents 
concerning the education of their disabled and special needs children.
    The UNCRPD follows the trend of the second generation of human 
rights treaties which promote the idea that government, not parents, 
have the ultimate voice in decisions concerning their children.
    Early human rights instruments were very supportive of the rights 
of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children.
    It is beyond dispute that the Universal Declaration of Human 
Rights, adopted in 1948 by the unanimous vote of the U.N. General 
Assembly arose ``out of the desire to respond forcefully to the evils 
perpetrated by Nazi Germany.''\2\ The UDHR's view regarding parents and 
children is no exception to this rule. Article 26(3) of the UDHR 
proclaims: ``Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education 
that shall be given to their children.'' Numerous human rights 
instruments have been drafted in reaction to ``the intrusion of the 
fascist state into the family. . . . ''\3\
    The rejection of the Nazi view of parents and children was 
translated from the aspirational articles of the UDHR into the binding 
provisions of the two core human rights treaties of our era--the 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the 
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966). 
Article 18(4) of the ICCPR provides:

        The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have 
        respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal 
        guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their 
        children in conformity with their own convictions.

    Article 13(3) of the ICESCR repeats and expands on this same theme:

        The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have 
        respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal 
        guardians to choose for their children schools, other than 
        those established by the public authorities, which conform to 
        such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or 
        approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral 
        education of their children in conformity with their own 
        convictions.

    This pro-parent view of human rights has given way to a decidedly 
different view in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child 
(UNCRC) and now in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities.
    The UNCRPD incorporates several key elements from the UNCRC that, 
as I will demonstrate, lead to the conclusion that parental rights in 
the education of disabled children are supplanted by a new theory of 
governmental oversight and superiority. In short, government agents, 
and not parents, are being given the authority to decide all 
educational and treatment issues for disabled children. All of the 
rights that parents have under both traditional American law and the 
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act will be undermined by this 
treaty.
    Article 7 is the key. Sections 2 and 3 directly parallel provisions 
of the UNCRC.

          2. In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the 
        best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
          3. States Parties shall ensure that children with 
        disabilities have the right to express their views freely on 
        all matters affecting them, their views being given due weight 
        in accordance with their age and maturity, on an equal basis 
        with other children, and to be provided with disability and 
        age-appropriate assistance to realize that right.

    Section 2 directly parallels Article 2(1) of the CRC. Section 3 
closely follows Article 12(1) of the CRC.
    The ``best interest of the child'' standard is a familiar one to 
anyone who has ever participated in family or juvenile law in American 
courts. However, in that context it is a dispositional standard. This 
means that after a parent has been convicted of abusing or neglecting 
their child, then and only then can the government substitute its view 
of what is best for the child or for that of the parent. Or in the 
divorce context, once a judge determines the family unit is broken, the 
judge must settle the contest between the competing parents and decide 
for herself what she thinks is in the best interest of the child.
    In an intact family, where there is no proof of abuse or neglect, 
government agents--whether school officials, social workers, or 
judges--cannot substitute their judgment of what is best for a child 
over the objection of the parents.
    This legal principle is firmly imbedded into the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act. Parents have a great deal of authority 
concerning the education and treatment of their children under this 
act.
    The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities 
lists eight particular rights of parents contained in the IDEA\4\:

        The right of parents to receive a complete explanation of all 
        the procedural safeguards available under IDEA and the 
        procedures in the state for presenting complaints

        Confidentiality and the right of parents to inspect and review 
        the educational records of their child

        The right of parents to participate in meetings related to the 
        identification, evaluation, and placement of their child, and 
        the provision of FAPE (a free appropriate public education) to 
        their child

        The right of parents to obtain an independent educational 
        evaluation (IEE) of their child

        The right of parents to receive ``prior written notice'' on 
        matters relating to the identification, evaluation, or 
        placement of their child, and the provision of FAPE to their 
        child

        The right of parents to give or deny their consent before the 
        school may take certain action with respect to their child

        The right of parents to disagree with decisions made by the 
        school system on those issues

        The right of parents and schools to use IDEA's mechanisms for 
        resolving disputes, including the right to appeal 
        determinations

    I have litigated an additional right of parents under the IDEA--the 
right to pursue private and home education at one's own expense.
    For example, in the Eighth Circuit case of Fitzgerald v. Camdenton 
R-III School Dist., 439 F.3d 773 (8th Cir. 2006), the court reinforced 
important parental rights concepts. ``[The IDEA allows parents to 
decline services and waive all benefits under the IDEA. See 20 U.S.C. 
Sec. 1414(a)(1)(D)(ii)(II). When parents waive their child's right to 
services, school districts may not override their wishes. See id.'' Id. 
at 775.
    In that case, we contended that parents did not even have to agree 
to allow the school district to force the child to go through the 
initial IDEA evaluation. The evidence showed that this homeschooling 
family had already had their child independently evaluated and the 
child was receiving private special needs services at the parents' own 
expense. The school district wanted to force the family to undergo its 
special needs evaluation even though the school recognized that it 
could not force this family to accept the recommended services at the 
end of the process.
    The Eighth Circuit ruled for the family saying that the school 
could not compel this IDEA evaluation under these circumstances.
    All of these parental rights will be eviscerated by the mandatory 
application of the ``best interest of the child'' standard which is set 
forth in Article 7 of the UNCRPD.
    Geraldine van Bueren, who is one of the world's leading experts on 
the international rights of the child and helped to draft the UNCRC 
(and was one of my professors at the University of London), clearly 
explains the meaning and application of this best interests standard in 
her course material.

          Best interests provides decision and policy makers with the 
        authority to substitute their own decisions for either the 
        child's or the parents', providing it is based on 
        considerations of the best interests of the child.\5\

    Section 7 of the UNCRPD uses the exact same legal terms as those 
contained in the UNCRC.
    Accordingly, today, under the IDEA parents get to decide what they 
think is best for their child--including the right to walk away from 
government services and provide private or home education. Under the 
UNCRPD, that right is supplanted with the rule announced by Professor 
van Bueren. Government officials have the authority to substitute their 
views for the views of parents as well as the views of the child as to 
what is best. If parents think that private schools are best for their 
child, the UNCRPD gives the government the authority and the legal duty 
to override that judgment and keep the child in the government-approved 
program that the officials think is best for the child.
    Ask virtually any parent who has dealt with school officials in the 
IDEA context: Are you willing to give the government the final say on 
what it thinks is best for your child's special needs or disability?
    School districts have a powerful motivation to do better for 
disabled and special needs children precisely because they know that 
parents with real rights are looking over their every move and have the 
ability to fight for what that parent knows to be best for their child. 
Remove parental authority and institutional lethargy will take over in 
many cases.
    Children are treated much, much better in the special needs setting 
whenever their parents have real and certain rights.
    Those rights are gone if this Senate ratifies this treaty. There 
are two reasons this is true.
    First, virtually every state has state law provisions which also 
give parents a number of rights in the educational setting. Article VI 
of the U.S. Constitution contains our Supremacy Clause which explicitly 
states that a ratified treaty is the Supreme Law of the land and all 
state law provisions which conflict with the treaty are overridden by 
the treaty.
    Any and all parental rights provisions in state education laws will 
be void by the direct application of Article 7 of this treaty. 
Government--not parents--has the authority to decide what is best for 
children.
    Second, we must analyze the impact of the ratification of this 
treaty based on the presumption that we are going to comply with the 
treaty in good faith. Accordingly, even with the presumption of the 
non-self-executing nature of the treaty, if the Senate ratifies this 
treaty, Congress will have the duty to revise the IDEA to comply with 
the provisions of the UNCRPD. Therefore, unless we intend to breach our 
international legal obligations, Congress will be required to modify 
the IDEA to ensure that government decisionmakers, and not parents, 
have the final say as to what they believe is best for a child.
    Thousands of homeschooling parents have children with special needs 
and disabilities. The ratification of this treaty is considered by our 
community to be the equivalent of an act of utter betrayal.
    As other parents of special needs children come to understand the 
meaning of these phrases in the UNCRPD, they too will be aghast to 
learn that this Senate is giving serious consideration to a legally 
binding international agreement that would undermine their rights as 
American parents.
    No proposed reservation can cure this problem. And unless we adopt 
a reservation that explicitly says: ``We are not serious about any duty 
to comply with this treaty and are ratifying only for PR purposes''--I 
can think of no means of drafting a reservation that cures this huge 
defect.
    Here is the plain fact. American law and international law are not 
compatible when it comes to parental rights. I can think of no good 
reason why we should even try. Americans should make the law for 
America--we do not need a committee of experts in Geneva to look over 
our shoulders to help us determine what kind of policy we need to best 
protect Americans with special needs and disabilities.
    Although there are a great number of other difficulties that are 
latent in this treaty, I want to focus just on one other issue. This 
treaty appears to take sides on the public policy issues concerning 
abortion.
    Article 25(a) of the UNCRPD requires state parties to:

        Provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality 
        and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes 
        as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual 
        and reproductive health and population-based public health 
        programmes;

    This provision has led the nations of Poland, Malta, and Monaco to 
adopt reservations or declarations that proclaim that these states do 
not recognize any right to an abortion or mandatory state-funding for 
the same.
    Under Roe v. Wade, of course, we live under a regime where it is 
proclaimed that women have the constitutional right to abortion. There 
is great controversy over that decision--and Congress has generally 
avoided federal funding for abortion. It would reasonably appear that 
Article 25(a) commits the United States to providing free abortion 
services to persons with disabilities. A vote for this treaty is a vote 
for abortion funding.
    Of course, our State Department has not proposed anything like the 
reservations from Poland, Malta, or Monaco. And I doubt that the 
omission was a mere oversight.
              this treaty would violate the principles of 
                    american sovereignty and liberty
    The Founders of this Republic understood treaties to be exclusively 
devoted to the subject matter of how nations treat other nations. The 
idea that international law would be used to dictate the policies that 
our Nation would follow concerning the rights of our own citizens 
would, frankly, astonish and bewilder the founding generation.
    In the most basic terms, American sovereignty means that Americans 
should make the law for America. No foreign power should have the 
ability to lay claim to a power to dictate what our internal domestic 
law should be.
    This treaty would alter that balance. I return to Professor van 
Bueren for an explanation of the impact on sovereignty by the 
ratification of this kind of treaty. Although her comments were 
directed toward the ratification of the UNCRC, they are fully 
applicable here.

        Underpinning this approach are the legal consequences of states 
        becoming party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 
        The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child moves 
        the borders for the state of what is political and what can be 
        subject to a legal challenge in courts, particularly in 
        resource allocation and budgetary matters. The Convention and 
        other international laws in effect narrows what were previously 
        unfettered discretionary powers of governments. Before 
        governments become party to human rights treaty they are 
        obliged to ensure that there are the resources, either to 
        implement the Convention on becoming party or shortly 
        thereafter, in accordance with international law. Hence, there 
        is no interference with national sovereignty, the nationally 
        sovereign decisions on how resources on children's rights to be 
        expended have already been taken. In essence, the government 
        has exercised its political powers, and it has to live with the 
        legal consequences.\6\

    There is a once for all decision that effectively exhausts our 
sovereignty. If we ratify this treaty, our ability to have absolute 
freedom of choice concerning our public policy on this subject has been 
extinguished. It is akin to the States being under a Federal mandate. 
Sure, the States have a bit of discretion in how the Federal mandate 
will be implemented, but their range of policy choices are 
circumscribed by the duty to implement the will of Congress. In a 
similar fashion, if the Senate ratifies this treaty--the nationally 
sovereign decisions will be made once for all. Generations of Americans 
will be forced to live with this decision--under a permanent duty to 
live under U.N. supervision for compliance with our international legal 
obligations.
    There is a second, more specific problem with this particular 
treaty.
    Human rights treaties in general seek to guarantee five sectors of 
rights--political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights. The 
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which was a statement of 
altruism and not binding international law) encompassed all five of 
these components of international law.
    However, in the years that followed, there was a great division 
between two sectors of human rights. Political and civil rights are 
called negative rights. These rights are what government cannot do to 
us or take from us. The United States Bill of Rights is the world's 
greatest collection of negative rights.
    However, economic, social, and cultural rights are called positive 
rights. These rights encompass services that the government must 
provide its citizens--the right to health care, the right to food, the 
right to employment.
    When the U.N. attempted to translate the UDHR into formal treaty 
language--this divide between civil and political rights vs. economic, 
social, and cultural rights took center stage. The west, led by the 
United States, supported the creation and ratification of civil and 
political rights. The Soviet Union and its allies, however, opposed 
civil and political rights and instead urged the creation of economic, 
social, and cultural rights.
    The attempt to create a single treaty encompassing all of the 
principles of the UDHR failed. Instead, the U.N. promulgated two 
separate treaties--the International Covenant on Civil and Political 
Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural 
Rights.
    The United States ratified the ICCPR. The Soviet Union ratified the 
ICESCR.
    To this very day, the United States has never ratified a U.N. human 
rights treaty that has economic, social, and cultural rights at the 
core of the treaty.
    Why is this? Professor van Bueren explains:

          The essence of economic and social, and to an extent, 
        cultural rights is that they involve redistribution, a task 
        with which, despite the vision of human rights, most 
        constitutional courts and regional and international tribunals 
        are distinctively uncomfortable.\7\

    Like these courts, the United States Senate--up until this present 
time--has shared this concern about committing our Nation to the task 
of redistribution.
    This treaty would break all precedent of this body. It would be the 
first time in the history of the Senate that the United States commits 
itself to a treaty that requires the redistribution of the resources of 
Americans. We must take resources from some Americans and give them to 
other Americans.
    There is little wonder that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 
favored this kind of redistributive right. But, up until today, the 
United States Senate has never ratified a treaty embracing these so-
called positive rights which are nothing more than the international 
entitlement to the redistribution of resources.
    You may call it what you will. I see such treaties as a dramatic 
loss of American freedom in favor of coercive international socialism.
                               conclusion
    It was American self-government and not international law that led 
to the significant advancements that this nation has seen in the 
appropriate law and policies concerning persons with disabilities.
    International law has no track record of success that could lead 
any reasonable person to believe that international law would have any 
claim of superiority over American self-government.
    We should pass whatever laws we need to ensure proper policies and 
practices for Americans with disabilities. But we should not give away 
our policy prerogatives to the superintendence of a committee of UN 
experts sitting in Geneva.

----------------
End Notes

    \1\Louis Henkin, ``U.S. Ratification of Human Rights Conventions: 
The Ghost of Senator Bricker,'' The American Journal of International 
Law, Vol 89 No 2, 343-344 (Apr. 1995).
    \2\Kathleen Renee Cronin-Furman, ``60 Years of the Universal 
Declaration of Human Rights: Towards an Individual Responsibility to 
Protect,'' 25 Am. U. Int'l L. Rev. 175, 176 (2009).
    \3\Marleen Eijkholt, ``The Right to Found a Family as a Stillborn 
Right to Procreate?'' 18 Med. L. Rev. 127, 134 (2010).
    \4\http://nichcy.org/schoolage/parental-rights.
    \5\Geraldine Van Bueren, ``International Rights of the Child, 
Section D,'' University of London, 46 (2006).
    \6\Geraldine Van Bueren, ``International Rights of the Child, 
Section D,'' University of London, 36 (2006).
    \7\Geraldine Van Bueren, ``Combating Child Poverty--Human Rights 
Approaches,'' Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 21, p. 680, 680-681 (1999).

    Senator Coons. Thank you, Dr. Farris.
    Mr. Groves.

 STATEMENT OF STEVEN GROVES, BERNARD AND BARBARA LOMAS FELLOW, 
            THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION, WASHINGTON, DC

    Mr. Groves. Thank you, Senator Coons, Ranking Member Lugar, 
for giving me the opportunity to testify today regarding 
whether the United States should ratify the Convention on the 
Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
    I had the opportunity to testify before the committee about 
a month ago on another treaty, the U.N. Convention on the Law 
of the Sea. And while there are no similarities between the two 
in terms of scope or subject matter, the central question that 
we are dealing with here remains the same, and that is the 
question regarding the propriety of U.S. ratification. And that 
question is whether membership in the Convention protects and 
preserves U.S. national interests.
    The Obama administration recognizes that ratification will 
not advance the rights of Americans with disabilities here in 
the United States. The President's letter of transmittal makes 
it clear. It states that Americans with disabilities already 
enjoy the Convention's rights at home.
    As such, ratifying the Convention merely makes an 
international commitment to continue the status quo here in the 
United States, which does not seem to be a compelling national 
interest since the rights of Americans with disabilities are 
well protected in the United States. Disabled Americans are 
protected by disability rights laws, such as the historic 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities 
Act, and many more State and Federal laws.
    These laws are enforced in American courtrooms nationwide 
by a panoply of Federal agencies, led by the Civil Rights 
Division of the Department of Justice and by men and women who 
have dedicated their lives to the advancement of Americans with 
disabilities, men and women like Judy Heumann and John Wodatch. 
But U.S. membership in the Convention will not affect the 
rights or improve the conditions of Americans with 
disabilities.
    As such, this committee should question exactly what U.S. 
national interest would be met by ratifying because there are 
real costs associated with ratification of the Convention. 
Every 4 years, the United States Government will be required to 
produce a comprehensive report in an effort to prove its 
compliance with the provisions of the Convention.
    That report must be presented to the 18-member Committee on 
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Geneva by a large 
team of U.S. officials. The actual cost of this reporting 
process is not insignificant. But more important are the 
potential political costs that come with ratification, and that 
is because the United States has endured mixed results, to say 
the least, in its interactions with other human rights treaty 
committees over the years for the treaties that we are a party 
to.
    For example, in 2008, the United States presented a 100-
page report to a treaty committee regarding the U.S. record on 
implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All 
Forms of Racial Discrimination. That committee gave short 
shrift to the U.S. report and instead adopted a damning 
appraisal of the U.S. record that was only tangentially related 
or utterly unrelated to issues regarding racial discrimination.
    Among some of the demands that that committee made, and you 
heard Senator DeMint refer to some of these earlier, are to 
ensure that enemy combatants held in Guantanamo Bay have the 
right to judicial review, to challenge the conditions of their 
detention, to prevent U.S. corporations from negatively 
affecting the rights of indigenous people living outside of the 
United States, to place a moratorium on the imposition of the 
death penalty, and to restore voting rights to all convicted 
felons, regardless of the heinousness of their crime.
    If the United States ratifies the disabilities Convention, 
it may be exposed to the same experience that it had with that 
committee. That committee and other human rights treaty bodies, 
such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination 
against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 
have established over the years a pattern of directing states 
parties to change their laws in ways that conflict with those 
states parties' legal, social, and cultural norms. There is 
little reason to believe that the Committee on the Rights of 
Persons with Disabilities will act any differently.
    In conclusion, as with any other treaty, this committee 
should weigh the costs and benefits entailed with ratifying the 
disabilities Convention. Neither the United States nor 
Americans with disabilities will benefit from a quadrennial 
chastisement by a committee of international disability experts 
sitting in Geneva.
    Instead, the United States should continue to lead by the 
example it has set for protecting the rights of Americans with 
disabilities through comprehensive legislation and enforcement.
    Again, I would like to thank the committee for inviting me 
to testify, and I look forward to any questions.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Groves follows:]

                  Prepared Statement of Steven Groves

    Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for inviting 
me to testify before you today regarding the Convention on the Rights 
of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD or Convention).
    I had the opportunity to testify before this committee a month ago 
regarding U.S. accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of 
the Sea. While there are no similarities between the two conventions in 
terms of scope or subject matter, the central question regarding the 
propriety of U.S. ratification remains the same--whether membership in 
the Convention protects, preserves, or advances U.S. national 
interests.
    The United States should not ratify the CRPD if membership would 
not advance U.S. national interests at home or abroad. The 
administration concedes that U.S. membership in the Convention would 
not advance the cause of persons with disabilities living in the United 
States since the United States already has in place comprehensive 
statutory, regulatory, and enforcement mechanisms regarding disability 
rights.
    The question remains whether membership in the Convention would 
advance national interests in the international sphere. Joining the 
Convention is unlikely to advance U.S. national interests abroad, but 
instead would obligate the United States to answer to a committee of 
``disability experts'' in violation of principles of U.S. sovereignty. 
The United States need not become party to the Convention to 
demonstrate its strong commitment to disability rights to the 
international community. Nor is there any evidence that U.S. 
ratification would enhance the ability of the U.S. Government or 
nongovernmental organizations to promote disability rights in foreign 
countries.
                             the convention
    On December 13, 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted 
the CRPD ``to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment 
of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with 
disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.''\1\
    The terms of the Convention are meant to protect the rights of 
persons with disabilities in the civil, political, economic, social and 
cultural spheres. It recognizes traditional civil and political rights 
that are guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution--such as the right to 
life and liberty, equality before the law, and the freedom of 
expression and opinion\2\--alongside certain economic, social, and 
cultural ``positive rights,'' such as the right to education, health, 
and ``an adequate standard of living for [persons with disabilities] 
and their families, including adequate food, clothing, and housing, and 
to the continuous improvement of living conditions.''\3\
    The Convention entered into force on May 3, 2008, after 20 nations 
had deposited their instruments of ratification. The Convention 
currently has 117 parties, and an additional 36 nations, including the 
United States, have signed but not ratified the treaty.\4\ U.S. 
Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice signed the Convention on 
July 30, 2009.\5\ President Obama transmitted the Convention, an 
article-by-article analysis, and a set of recommended reservations, 
declarations, and understandings to the Senate for its advice and 
consent on or about May 17, 2012 (Transmittal Package).\6\
    If the Senate gives its advice and consent and the Convention is 
ratified, it would become the ``Supreme Law of the Land'' on par with 
Federal statutes, including statutes relating to disability rights.\7\ 
When the United States becomes party to a human rights treaty it 
obligates itself to the other treaty parties that it will comply with 
the terms of the treaty within U.S. territory. Therefore, the United 
States needs to take great care when deciding whether to ratify such a 
treaty when its terms--or the interpretation of those terms by a treaty 
committee--may not conform to existing State and Federal law or to 
prevalent American social, cultural, and economic norms.
               america's leadership on disability rights
    The United States should become party to a treaty only if it 
advances U.S. national interests. The U.S. should be especially wary of 
international conventions that require domestic enforcement by the 
Federal Government. U.S. national interests in the context of the 
Convention may be characterized in both foreign and domestic terms: 
Would becoming a party to the Convention serve U.S. interests within 
the international community or would joining advance the cause of 
Americans with disabilities?
    From a purely public diplomacy calculus, one can argue that the 
United States will enhance its reputation within the international 
community by holding itself to a high standard of human rights. 
However, in the case of the CRPD, the United States already has 
effective legislative measures in place to protect the rights of the 
disabled. Those who say that ratification would allow the United States 
to claim the moral high ground within the international community--at 
least in regard to disability rights--imply that the United States is 
deficient in protecting the rights of the disabled. In truth, the 
United States has been a leader in protecting the rights of the 
disabled. It already holds the moral high ground. Signing a treaty 
merely to ``score points'' overseas is not a sound basis for making 
policy.
    Ratification of the CRPD is unnecessary to end discrimination 
against persons with disabilities in the United States. As is made 
clear throughout the Transmittal Package, the United States already has 
in place a wide range of Federal laws to protect and advance the cause 
of Americans with disabilities.\8\ Major pieces of legislation include 
the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,\9\ the Americans with Disabilities Act 
(ADA),\10\ the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B,\11\ 
and the Fair Housing Act.\12\ Other Federal laws that protect persons 
with disabilities include the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Air 
Carrier Access Act of 1986, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly 
and Handicapped Act of 1984, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized 
Persons Act, and the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968.\13\
    These Federal laws, unlike the broad provisions of the CRPD, were 
crafted to address the situation of disabled persons living in the 
United States, not to address the general opinions of the international 
community. As a whole, the legislation is a firm foundation that can be 
modified or expanded as necessary through the legislative or regulatory 
process.
    In addition, U.S. disabilities laws are enforced by a panoply of 
Federal agencies, most notably the Civil Rights Division of the 
Department of Justice.\14\ Other elements of the Federal Government 
have responsibilities under the ADA and other Federal disability 
legislation. In addition to Federal law, all 50 States and the District 
of Columbia have enacted a wide range of laws to prevent discrimination 
against the disabled and provide an array of resources to persons with 
disabilities.\15\
    In short, the U.S. Government treats disability discrimination in a 
comprehensive and exhaustive manner that makes membership in an 
international covenant purporting to set standards for the treatment of 
the disabled superfluous at best. To allow an international committee 
of disability experts to scrutinize the U.S. record every 4 years would 
yield little or no benefit in realizing disability rights for 
Americans. Any public diplomacy or other possible marginal benefits, if 
any, that could arise from ratifying the Convention should be weighed 
against the negative consequences of ratification.
             ceding authority to an international committee
    To monitor implementation, human rights treaties usually establish 
a ``committee of experts'' to review reports from states parties on 
their compliance. States parties are required to submit periodic 
reports (usually every 4 years) to the committee detailing their 
compliance with the particular treaty. The CRPD established the 
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee), 
which is charged with reviewing periodic reports and making ``such 
suggestions and general recommendations on the report as it may 
consider appropriate.''\16\
    Since the Convention entered into force in May 2008, the CRPD 
Committee has conducted reviews of a small number of states parties and 
has issued final conclusions and recommendations regarding Tunisia, 
Spain, and Peru.\17\
    Abuses by Treaty Committees. Human rights treaty committees have 
been known to make demands of states parties that fall well outside the 
scope of the subject matter of the treaty that conflict with the legal, 
social, economic, and cultural traditions and norms of states parties. 
This has especially been the case with the United States.
    For instance, in February 2008, the Committee on the Elimination of 
Racial Discrimination reviewed the U.S. record on racial discrimination 
and issued a report directing the United States to change its policies 
on a series of political causes completely divorced from the issues of 
race and racial discrimination. Specifically, the committee urged the 
United States to guarantee effective judicial review to the foreign 
unlawful enemy combatants held at the Guantanamo Bay detention 
facility, prevent U.S. corporations from abusing the rights of 
indigenous populations in other countries, place a moratorium on the 
death penalty, restore voting rights to convicted felons, and other 
matters completely unrelated or only tangentially related to racial 
discrimination.\18\
    The committees overseeing the enforcement of other human rights 
treaties to which the United States is not a party often recommend 
changes in policies that are outside of traditional American norms. For 
example, the committee that oversees the Convention on the Elimination 
of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) regularly 
advocates that states decriminalize prostitution, expand access to 
abortion, devalue the role of women as mothers, reduce parental 
authority, and implement strict numerical gender quotas in the 
government and private sectors.\19\
    The U.S. has reason to expect that the experts on the CRPD 
Committee will give short shrift to U.S. sovereignty, laws, 
regulations, and norms, and embark on similar forays in pursuit of a 
broader agenda of social engineering unrelated to disability rights.
    Defining the CRPD Committee's Role. Any debate over U.S. 
ratification of the Convention should make it clear through 
reservations, understandings, and declarations that the CRPD Committee 
has no power--either through its recommendations or by the issuance of 
general comments--to provide authoritative or legally enforceable 
interpretations of the Convention.
    The administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush 
held that position regarding human rights treaty committees. For 
example, in 1994 the Human Rights Committee adopted a general comment 
which claimed that its ``role under the [International] Covenant [on 
Civil and Political Rights] . . . necessarily entails interpreting the 
provisions of the Covenant and the development of a 
jurisprudence.''\20\ The Clinton administration reacted strongly to 
this claim of authority by issuing a lengthy critique, which stated:

        [The Committee's] rather surprising assertion . . . would be a 
        rather significant departure from the Covenant scheme, which 
        does not impose on States Parties an obligation to give effect 
        to the Committee's interpretations or confer on the Committee 
        the power to render definitive or binding interpretations of 
        the Covenant. The drafters of the Covenant could have given the 
        committee this role but deliberately chose not to do so.\21\

    The Bush administration similarly responded to a fact sheet titled 
``The Right to Health'' produced by the Office of the U.N. High 
Commissioner for Human Rights and the World Health Organization. The 
fact sheet asserted that the general comments and recommendations 
adopted by human rights treaty committees ``provide an authoritative 
and detailed interpretation of the provisions found in the 
treaties.''\22\ The U.S. response was unequivocal:

        General comments and other documents issued by treaty 
        monitoring bodies express the opinions of individuals acting in 
        their expert capacities; such documents are not the result of 
        deliberations among States. While the views of treaty 
        monitoring bodies are entitled to respect and should be 
        considered carefully by States Parties, they do not create 
        legal obligations or ``requirements.''\23\

    This committee should be equally clear in reaffirming that the CRPD 
Committee has no authority to create new international norms or 
customary international law that the states themselves have not 
deliberated and approved, particularly any that would arguably bind the 
U.S. domestically. Such a clarification would reinforce the traditional 
understanding of customary international law as the ``law of nations'' 
that ``results from a general and consistent practice of states 
followed by them from a sense of legal obligation,'' not from the 
recommendations of a treaty committee.\24\ It would also reaffirm U.S. 
sovereignty by demonstrating that the Federal Government will actively 
work to prevent the improper imposition of norms to which it has not 
given its democratic consent.\25\
    The committee should also make clear that the CRPD Committee does 
not possess the authority to dictate the meaning of the Convention to 
states parties. Its interpretation of the terms of the Convention, the 
obligations it imposes, and any recommendations and general comments 
are entitled only to respect and consideration by the member states. 
The committee should serve a technical, administrative role as opposed 
to a substantive, adjudicatory, or quasi-lawmaking role. The United 
States, not a committee of international disability experts, retains 
the final authority to interpret the terms of the Convention and 
determine its international obligations.
    This committee has in the past proposed an understanding regarding 
the authority of a human rights expert committee. Specifically, a 
committee report in 2002 proposed the following understanding as a 
condition to ratification of CEDAW: ``Accordingly, the United States 
understands that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination 
Against Women has no authority to compel actions by States 
Parties.''\26\
                           non-self-execution
    U.S. ratification of the Convention would make it ``the Supreme Law 
of the Land'' under the supremacy clause of the Constitution.\27\ 
Although ratification would constitute a commitment under international 
law, the text of the Convention gives no indication that its drafters 
intended its provisions to be automatically enforceable under the 
domestic law of the states parties.\28\
    Nevertheless, to protect against any assertion to the contrary and 
as recommended in the Transmittal Package, this committee should submit 
a declaration that the Convention is not self-executing, meaning that 
its provisions would not be enforceable in U.S. courts. Private causes 
of action or other new avenues of litigation would thus require passage 
of Federal legislation specifically implementing the Convention's 
terms.\29\
    ``Non-self-executing'' declarations are common. In fact, the United 
States has entered such declarations as a condition for ratifying the 
three major human rights treaties to which it is a party: the 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),\30\ the 
International Covenant on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 
(ICERD),\31\ and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, 
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).\32\ The non-self-
executing declaration has also been proposed as a condition for CEDAW 
ratification.\33\
    Of course, the United States would be fully justified in entering 
such a declaration. Existing State and Federal legislation already 
provide private causes of action for the disabled in the United States, 
including for instances of discrimination in employment, public 
accommodations, transportation, telecommunications, housing and other 
areas.\34\
    The Transmittal Package recommends the inclusion of a non-self-
executing declaration, but for some reason includes a proviso that ``it 
is not necessary that such Declaration be included in the instrument of 
ratification deposited by the President.''\35\ Excluding the 
declaration would be a departure from U.S. past practice, as the non-
self-execution declaration has been included in the U.S. instrument of 
ratification in connection with the ICCPR, ICERD, and CAT.
                        ``reproductive health''
    For many years there has been a heated debate within the U.N. 
system regarding abortion ``rights.''\36\ Apparently unwilling to use 
the term ``abortion'' in the debate, the proponents of establishing 
abortion as a human right use phrases such as ``reproductive rights'' 
and ``sexual and reproductive health'' as euphemisms for ``abortion 
rights.'' The use of one such euphemism in the text of the Convention 
has extended the abortion debate into the realm of disability rights. 
Specifically, Article 25 of the Convention requires states parties to 
``[p]rovide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and 
standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided 
to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive 
health and population-based public health programmes.''\37\
    Within the context of the debate over abortion rights, Article 25 
of the Convention could be interpreted as ensuring that persons with 
disabilities are provided access to free or affordable abortions, 
assuming such access is provided to nondisabled persons by the state 
party.
    When the U.N. General Assembly approved the final text of the 
Convention on December 13, 2006, more than one dozen nations, including 
the United States, made official statements regarding their 
interpretation of the phrase ``reproductive health.''\38\ The pertinent 
part of the U.S. statement reads:

        In that regard, the United States understands that the phrase 
        ``reproductive health'' in subparagraph (a) of article 25 of 
        the draft Convention does not include abortion, and that its 
        use in that article does not create any abortion rights and 
        cannot be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement or 
        promotion of abortion. We stated that understanding at the time 
        of adoption of the Convention in the Ad Hoc Committee, and note 
        that no other delegation suggested a different understanding of 
        that term.\39\

    However, that statement conflicts with the opinion of Secretary of 
State Hillary Clinton regarding the meaning of ``reproductive health.'' 
On April 22, 2009, Secretary Clinton testified before the House Foreign 
Affairs Committee, ``We happen to think that family planning is an 
important part of women's health, and reproductive health includes 
access to abortion, that I believe should be safe, legal, and 
rare.''\40\
    Due to this apparent conflict in the interpretation of 
``reproductive health,'' this committee should clarify the nature of 
the Convention regarding that phrase and its relationship to 
abortion.\41\
    Similar issues arose in this committee in 1994 and 2002 in the 
context of CEDAW. In these instances, Senators raised the question of 
whether abortion rights were to be inferred from certain language in 
CEDAW that related to ``family planning.'' This committee issued two 
reports (in 1994 and 2002) submitting understandings that the U.S. will 
``determine which health care services are appropriate in connection 
with family planning, pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period. 
. . .'' Moreover, in the 2002 report the committee required as a 
condition to the Senate's advice and consent an understanding 
explicitly stating that nothing in CEDAW ``shall be construed to 
reflect or create any right to abortion and in no case should abortion 
be promoted as a method of family planning.''\42\
    Abortion remains one of the most heated social issues being debated 
in the United States among activist groups, State and Federal 
legislatures, and courts at all levels, including the U.S. Supreme 
Court. Introducing an ``international'' opinion on the matter from a 
group of disability experts ensconced in Geneva is unlikely to resolve 
or advance the debate in the United States.
                    defining the convention's terms
    It stands to reason that an international treaty designed to end 
discrimination on the basis of ``disability'' should provide a working 
definition of that term, yet the Convention provides none.\43\ In fact, 
the treaty clouds any legally workable definition of disability by 
stating in its opening paragraphs that ``disability is an evolving 
concept.''\44\ Such ambiguity invites abuse by persons or groups who do 
not suffer from a recognized medical disability, yet seek resources and 
protection under the authority of the Convention. This would also 
complicate implementation of the Convention in the United States, in 
which the definition of ``disability'' is still regularly contested by 
activists, litigants, and judges.
    Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person is considered 
disabled if he has ``a physical or mental impairment that substantially 
limits one or more . . . major life activities,'' has ``a record of 
such an impairment,'' or has been ``regarded as having such an 
impairment.''\45\ Recent amendments to the ADA further clarified that 
definition by defining ``major life activities'' to include ``caring 
for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, 
sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, 
learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and 
working'' and ``[m]ajor bodily functions.''\46\
    Absent a definition or an ``evolving'' definition, ratification may 
result in conflict between U.S. law and the Convention. The 
administration has recognized the potential for conflict between the 
definitions (or lack thereof) of ``disability'' and ``persons with 
disabilities'' and has recommended an understanding to address the 
issue.\47\
    But that understanding falls short. To ensure that the United 
States is not seen to consent to other key definitions the 
understanding should be broadened to include the terms ``discrimination 
based on disability,'' ``reasonable accommodation,'' and ``major life 
activity.'' The CRPD Committee may interpret these terms differently 
than Congress or U.S. courts would interpret them. For instance, a 
committee of experts recently questioned the United States on whether 
the definition of ``racial discrimination'' under U.S. law comported 
with the terms of the ICERD.\48\
    The United States has similarly qualified terminology in previous 
treaties. For example, when the United States ratified the United 
Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or 
Degrading Treatment or Punishment, it entered an understanding that 
substituted its own definition of ``torture,'' which differed from the 
Convention's definition.\49\ The United States also entered a 
reservation that limited the treaty's definition of ``cruel, inhuman, 
or degrading treatment or punishment'' to prohibit only those acts 
considered cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment under 
the U.S. Constitution.\50\
    U.S. membership in the Convention would produce, at best, an 
intangible, incalculable, and marginal public diplomacy benefit in the 
international community. The United States need not become party to the 
Convention to demonstrate its commitment to the rights of persons with 
disabilities or to advance the cause of the disabled in other nations. 
Any nation that questions U.S. dedication to protecting Americans with 
disabilities need only review the architecture of State and Federal 
laws and the network of State and Federal agencies that enforce those 
laws.
    On the domestic front, persons with disabilities in the United 
States would be better served by a continual review of the 
implementation of existing State and Federal laws. The U.S. Congress, 
American civil society, and special interest groups are far better 
positioned to conduct such reviews than a committee of disability 
experts from Bangladesh, China, Qatar, and Tunisia, which are current 
members of the CRPD Committee.
    In addition to the reservations, understandings, and declarations 
(RUDs) included in the President's Transmittal Package, this committee 
should include additional RUDs in its resolution of advice and consent 
to ratification. At a minimum, the following RUDs should be made:

   Definitions. The Transmittal Package recommends an 
        understanding in regard to the definition of ``disability'' and 
        ``persons with disabilities,'' but there are several other 
        crucial definitions, including some that are defined by the 
        Convention, that should be addressed. An understanding along 
        the following general lines would make clear that the United 
        States is not obligated to accept the CRPD Committee's 
        interpretation of these terms:

      The United States would consider itself bound by the obligations 
        of the Convention only insofar as the terms ``disability,'' 
        ``persons with disabilities,'' ``discrimination based on 
        disability,'' ``reasonable accommodation,'' and ``major life 
        activity'' are defined coextensively with the definitions of 
        such terms pursuant to the relevant laws in the United States.

   The Authority of the CRPD Committee. An understanding along 
        the following general lines would make clear that the United 
        States considers the role of the Committee on the Rights of 
        Persons with Disabilities to be technical and advisory, as 
        opposed to authoritative or adjudicatory:

      The United States understands that the Committee on the Rights of 
        Persons with Disabilities has no authority to compel actions by 
        states parties, and the United States does not consider 
        conclusions, recommendations, or general comments issued by the 
        committee as constituting customary international law or 
        legally binding on it in any manner.

   ``Reproductive Health.'' To remain consistent with the U.S. 
        understanding of the term ``reproductive health'' at the time 
        that the Convention was adopted in 2006, an understanding along 
        the following lines should be included in the resolution of 
        advice and consent:

      The United States understands that the phrase ``sexual and 
        reproductive health'' in Article 25(a) of the Convention does 
        not include abortion, and its use in that Article does not 
        create any abortion rights, and cannot be interpreted to 
        constitute support, endorsement, or promotion of abortion, and 
        in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family 
        planning.

    These RUDs, in addition to those recommended in the Transmittal 
Package, could limit, although not eliminate, the danger that the 
Convention would pose to U.S. law and American sovereignty. Regardless, 
even with the inclusion of the aforementioned RUDs, U.S. ratification 
will not advance its national interests. Nor will it advance the cause 
of Americans with disabilities.
    Current U.S. law meets or exceeds the provisions of the Convention, 
and mere membership in the Convention will not convince the 
international community that America protects the rights of its 
disabled citizens. Moreover, ratification of the Convention may harm 
U.S. national interests because human rights treaty committees 
increasingly view themselves as the legislators of binding 
international norms, instead of as experts fulfilling the technical 
roles they were intended to perform.

----------------
End Notes

    \1\Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, art. 1.
    \2\Ibid., arts. 10, 12, 14, and 21.
    \3\Ibid., arts. 24, 25, and 28.
    \4\U.N. Office of Legal Affairs, Treaty Section, ``Status: 
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,'' United Nations 
Treaty Collection,'' at http://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.
aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg;_no=IV-15&chapter;=4〈=en (July 10, 2012).
    \5\Edith M. Lederer, ``US Signs Disabled Rights Treaty,'' ABC News, 
July 30, 2009, at http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=8215921 (April 
15, 2010).
    \6\Message from the President of the United States transmitting the 
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 112th Cong., 2d 
Sess., Treaty Doc. 112-7, May 17, 2012, at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/
pkg/CDOC-112tdoc7/pdf/CDOC-112tdoc7.pdf (July 10, 2012).
    \7\U.S. Constitution, art. VI, cl. 2.
    \8\Transmittal Package, Tab 1-2, pp. 83-93.
    \9\29 U.S.C. Sec. 791 et seq.
    \10\42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq., later amended by the ADA 
Amendments Act of 2008, Public Law 110-325 (enacted on September 25, 
2008).
    \11\20 U.S.C. Sec. 1400 et seq. The Education for All Handicapped 
Children Act, the predecessor legislation to IDEA, was enacted in 1975.
    \12\42 U.S.C. Sec. 3601 et seq.
    \13\42 U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 255, 251(a)(2); 49 U.S.C. Sec. 41.705; 42 
U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 1973ee et seq.; 42 U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 1997 et seq.; 42 
U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 4151 et seq. See also U.S. Department of Justice, 
Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, ``A Guide to 
Disability Rights Laws,'' September 2005, at http://www.ada.gov/
cguide.htm#anchor64984 (April 15, 2010).
    \14\U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, ``Disability 
Rights Section Home Page,'' at http://www.justice.gov/crt/drs/
drshome.php (April 15, 2010). See also Americans with Disabilities Act, 
``ADA Home Page,'' at http://www.ada.gov (April 15, 2010).
    \15\For example, see Cancer Legal Line, ``State Disability 
Discrimination Laws,''http://www.marrow.org/PATIENT/Support_Resources/
Patient_Teleconferen/PDFs/Aug.6.08.Handout-State_Disability_Laws.pdf 
(April 15, 2010); Disability.gov, ``Information by State,'' at http://
www.disability.gov/state/index (April 15, 2010).
    \16\Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, art. 
36(1).
    \17\Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 
``Concluding observations,'' Tunisia, CRPD/C/TUN/CO/1, May 13, 2011, at 
http://www2.ohchr.org//SPdocs/CRPD/5thsession/CRPD-C-TUN-CO-1_en.doc 
(July 10, 2012); Spain, CRPD/C/ESP/CO/1, October 19, 2011, at http://
www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CRPD/6thsession/CRPD.C.ESP.CO.1_en.doc 
(July 10, 2012); Peru, CRPD/C/PER/CO/1, May 9, 2012, at http://
www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CRPD/7thsession/CRPD.C.PER.CO.1-
ENG.doc (July 10, 2012). The Committee may have completed reports on 
Argentina, China, and Hungary, but if so the reports are not yet 
available online.
    \18\Steven Groves, ``The Inequities of the U.N. Committee on the 
Elimination of Racial Discrimination,'' Heritage Foundation 
Backgrounder No. 2168, August 7, 2008, at http://www.heritage.org/
Research/InternationalOrganizations/bg2168.cfm. See also Committee on 
the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, ``Concluding Observations of 
the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: United 
States of America,'' CERD/C/USA/CO/6, February 2008, at http://
www.universalhumanrightsindex.org/documents/824/1310/document/en/
text.html (April 15, 2010).
    \19\Patrick F. Fagan, ``How U.N. Conventions on Women's and 
Children's Rights Undermine Family, Religion, and Sovereignty,'' 
Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1407, February 5, 2001, at http://
www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2001/02/How-UN-Conventions-On-Womens; 
Grace Melton, ``CEDAW: How U.N. Interference Threatens the Rights of 
American Women,'' Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2227, January 9, 
2009, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2009/01/CEDAW-How-UN-
Interference-Threatens-the-Rights-of-American-Women; and Wendy Wright, 
``CEDAW Committee Rulings,'' Concerned Women for America, August 27, 
2002, at http://www.cwfa.org/articledisplay.asp?id=1870 (April 15, 
2010).
    \20\U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 
``General Comment No. 24: Issues Relating to Reservations Made upon 
Ratification or Accession to the Covenant or the Optional Protocols 
Thereto, or in Relation to Declarations Under Article 41 of the 
Covenant,'' CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.6, November 4, 1994, at http://
www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/69c55b086f
72957ec12563ed004ecf7a (April 15, 2010).
    \21\Observations by the Governments of the United States and the 
United Kingdom on Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 24 (52) 
relating to reservations, U.N. document A/50/40, p. 1, March 28, 1995, 
at http://www.iilj.org/courses/documents/USandUKResponses.pdf (April 
15, 2010).
    \22\Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and World 
Health Organization, ``The Right to Health,'' Fact Sheet No. 31, June 
2008, p. 10, at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/
Factsheet31.pdf (April 16, 2010).
    \23\U.S. Department of State, ``Observations by the United States 
of America on `The Right to Health, Fact Sheet No. 31,''' October 15, 
2008, at http://www.globalgovernancewatch.org/docLib/
20081222_Health_USG_Paper.pdf (April 16, 2010).
    \24\Restatement (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United 
States Sec. 102(2) (1987), and Curtis A. Bradley and Jack L. Goldsmith, 
Foreign Relations Law, 2nd ed. (New York: Aspen Publishers, 2006).
    \25\For a critique of the ``modern position'' that customary 
international law is applicable or enforceable within the United 
States, see Curtis A. Bradley and Jack L. Goldsmith, ``Customary 
International Law as Federal Common Law: A Critique of the Modern 
Position,'' Harvard Law Review, Vol. 110, No. 4 (February 1997), p. 
815.
    \26\Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination 
Against Women, Senate Exec. Rept. 107-9, 107th Cong., 2d Sess., 
September 6, 2002, p. 13. Citing a July 8, 2002, letter from Secretary 
of State Colin Powell, the report stated, ``State Parties have always 
retained the discretion on whether to implement any recommendations 
made by the Committee.''
    \27\``This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which 
shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and 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.'' U.S. Constitution, art. VI, cl. 2.
    \28\``This Court has long recognized the distinction between 
treaties that automatically have effect as domestic law, and those 
that--while they constitute international law commitments--do not by 
themselves function as binding federal law.'' Medellin v. Texas, 552 
U.S. 491, 504 (2008).
    \29\``International agreements, even those directly benefiting 
private persons, generally do not create private rights or provide for 
a private cause of action in domestic courts.'' 2 Restatement (Third) 
of Foreign Relations Law of the United States Sec. 907, Comment a, p. 
395 (1986).
    \30\``That the United States declares that the provisions of 
articles 1 through 27 of the Covenant are not self-executing.'' 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, December 16, 
1966, in United Nations, Treaty Series, Vol. 999, p. 171 and Vol. 1057, 
p. 407, ``Declarations and Reservations,'' United States, Declaration 
(1), at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.
aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg;_no=IV-4&chapter;=4〈=en (April 16, 2010).
    \31\``That the United States declares that the provisions of the 
Convention are not self-executing.'' International Covenant on the 
Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Declarations and Reservations, 
United States, III, at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/
ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&
mtdsg_no=IV-2&chapter;=4〈=en#EndDec (April 19, 2010).
    \32\``That the United States declares that the provisions of 
articles 1 through 16 of the Convention are not self-executing.'' 
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading 
Treatment or Punishment, New York, 10 December 1984, United Nations, 
Treaty Series, vol. 1465, p. 85, ``Declarations and Reservations,'' 
United States, III, at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/
ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg;_no=IV-9&chapter;=4〈=en (April 19, 
2010).
    \33\``The United States declares that, for purposes of its domestic 
law, the provisions of the Convention are non-self-executing.'' 
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against 
Women, Senate Exec. Rept. 107-9, p. 13, September 6, 2002.
    \34\Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 
Sec. Sec. 12101 et seq.; Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 
Sec. 794; and ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Public Law 110-325.
    \35\Transmittal Package, p. 82.
    \36\See Douglas Sylva and Susan Yoshihara, ``Rights by Stealth: The 
Role of UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies in the Campaign for an 
International Right to Abortion,'' International Organizations Research 
Group White Paper No 8, reprinted 2009, at http://www.c-fam.org/docLib/
20100126_IORG_W_Paper_Number8FINAL.pdf (April 16, 2010).
    \37\Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, art. 
25(a) (emphasis added).
    \38\See Susan Yoshihara, ``UN Adopts Disabilities Treaty, Many 
States Reiterate Rejection of Abortion,'' Catholic Family & Human 
Rights Institute Friday Fax, December 14, 2006, at http://www.c-
fam.org/publications/id.492/pub_detail.asp (April 16, 2010).
    \39\U.N. General Assembly, 61st Session, 76th plenary meeting, U.N. 
Doc. A/61/PV.76, December 13, 2006, p. 7 (July 10, 2012).
    \40\Hearing, New Beginnings: Foreign Policy Priorities in the Obama 
Administration, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of 
Representatives, 111th Cong., 1st Sess., April 22, 2009, at http://
foreignaffairs.house.gov/schedule.asp?showdate=4/22/2009&adj;=4/22/2009 
(emphasis added) (April 16, 2010).
    \41\Article 10 of CRPD, titled ``Right to life,'' requires that 
``States Parties reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right 
to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective 
enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.'' 
This provision is seemingly inconsistent with an interpretation of 
``reproductive health'' that requires access to abortion.
    \42\Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination 
Against Women, Senate Exec. Rept. 103-38, 103d Cong., 2d Sess., October 
3, 1994, and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of 
Discrimination Against Women, Senate Exec. Rept. 107-9.
    \43\There is no definition of ``disability'' in the operative 
definition section of the Convention (Article 2 ``Definitions''). The 
failure to reach consensus on the definition of ``disability'' was the 
result of a dispute concerning whether the term ``disability'' should 
be a medical concept or a social concept. Language describing 
disability as an ``evolving concept'' certainly leans toward a more 
social definition. See Susan Yoshihara, ``The Quest for Happiness,'' in 
Brett D. Schaefer, ed., ``ConUNdrum: The Limits of the United Nations 
and the Search for Alternatives'' (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield 
Publishers, 2009), p. 182.
    \44\Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 
Preamble, para.(e).
    \45\Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12102(2).
    \46\Public Law 110-325, Sec. 4(a)(2)(A) (September 25, 2008).
    \47\Transmittal Package, p. 8.
    \48\The CERD Committee rapporteur questioned the U.S. definition of 
racial discrimination in regard to the necessity to prove intentional 
discrimination versus practices that are facially neutral but have an 
unlawful disparate impact upon members of a protected class. Committee 
on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, ``Questions Put by the 
Rapporteur in Connection with the Consideration of the Combined Fourth, 
Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports of the United States of America (CERD/
C/USA/6),'' March 7, 2008, pp. 13-15, at http://www.state.gov/
documents/organization/107362.pdf (April 19, 2010).
    \49\Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or 
Degrading Treatment or Punishment, December 10, 1984, in United 
Nations, ``Treaty Series,'' Vol. 1465, p. 85, ``Declarations and 
Reservations,'' United States, II(1), at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/
ViewDetails.aspx?src=
TREATY&mtdsg;_no=IV9&chapter;=4〈=en (April 19, 2010).
    \50\Ibid., I(1).

    Senator Coons. Thank you, Mr. Groves.
    Mr. Lancaster.

  STATEMENT OF JOHN LANCASTER, FIRST LIEUTENANT, U.S. MARINE 
CORP, RET., RETIRED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL 
             ON INDEPENDENT LIVING, WASHINGTON, DC

    Mr. Lancaster. Thank you. Thank you, Senator Coons, Senator 
Lugar, other members of the distinguished Foreign Relations 
Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the 
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
    I, too, ask that my full testimony be entered into the 
record.
    I join 21 veterans organizations and over 165 disability 
organizations in supporting the CRPD. I request that you 
support ratification of this treaty and move it to a floor vote 
in the Senate as soon as possible.
    I have served the United States in a variety of capacities, 
first as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps during the 
Vietnam war, and then as a veteran on disability issues both 
within the Government and private sector. I have focused my 
entire career on the rights of people with disabilities.
    My firsthand experience with disability began east of Hue 
City in Vietnam. I had been commissioned as second lieutenant 
United States Marine Corps upon graduation from the University 
of Notre Dame. In 1968, I had orders to Vietnam. Five months 
into my service, I was shot and injured in a fire fight.
    Although my friends and family welcomed me home as a 
disabled veteran, society did not receive me so well. While 
there were tensions around the politics of the Vietnam war, it 
was the inaccessibility of my environment that made me feel 
unwelcome. I returned to a country not ready to accept a man 
who now used a wheelchair.
    I experienced denial of the simplest pleasures, such as 
going to a restaurant with my family. My alma mater even wanted 
to deny my law school application based on the campus's then 
inaccessibility.
    I struggled with needless environmental obstacles and 
barriers ever present in my daily life. That is, until the 
United States enacted our disability laws. I can tell you that 
today our returning servicemembers with disabilities are 
welcomed home to a country that will not deny them any 
opportunity or freedom.
    As George H.W. Bush said when signing the ADA, let the 
shameful walls of exclusion finally come tumbling down. I am so 
pleased to see that President Bush is an advocate for the CRPD, 
as we heard earlier, and is able to now see the global impact 
the ADA is making.
    I tell this story of the ADA because it is the disability 
movement in the United States that has sprouted similar 
movements abroad and inspired the global treaty that we are 
here to discuss. In 2001, the drafting of the CRPD answered our 
call for a global framework on this important issue.
    Civil society contributed in an unprecedented way. Drawing 
from the ADA, the CRPD seeks to ensure that people with 
disabilities are accepted in society, receive reasonable 
accommodations, and are guaranteed options for community living 
and rights to a family life. The adoption of the treaty in 2006 
was an incredible accomplishment and has led to the development 
of disability rights around the world.
    If the United States has accomplished so much, then why 
ratify, you have been asking. For one, I believe that U.S. 
participation on the treaty implementation will yield even more 
progress and will offer expertise and technical knowledge that 
many other countries do not have in the area of disability 
rights.
    From a veteran's perspective, I think we have much to gain 
from improved accessibility in the world. Accessibility is a 
major challenge for American athletes--or I want to back up a 
second.
    Today, some disabled soldiers and Marines remain on Active 
Duty in spite of their disability, continuing to serve. These 
servicemembers and their families should be afforded the same 
opportunities outside the United States as they enjoy here.
    Many veterans like myself are engaged in international work 
in some capacity. In 2000, a project funded by the U.S. Agency 
for International Development on which I worked, I spent 4 
years in Hanoi as an adviser to the Vietnamese Government on 
disability law, policy, and programs. In Hanoi, accessible 
transportation was rare. So rare that I would have to hold onto 
a cyclo or bicycle rickshaw to get around.
    Following its signing of the CRPD in 2007, Vietnam began 
planning for an accessible rapid bus system in Hanoi, and that 
system is now under development. And I submit that Vietnam is 
waiting to see what we, the United States, do before it 
ratifies this treaty.
    The CRPD is a wonderful tool to help ensure sustainability 
of U.S. aid dollars spent overseas on disability-related 
issues, while also expanding access for Americans with 
disabilities who may choose to work abroad.
    Accessibility is also a major challenge for American 
athletes with disabilities, many who are veterans, who 
frequently travel internationally to compete. As this committee 
considers this treaty, the world will be turning their eyes to 
London for the Paralympics and the Olympics. As we send our 
teams off to compete, we should do so with a favorable vote on 
the CRPD.
    As the treaty package reveals, the United States has an 
incomparable set of laws that protect the rights of people with 
disabilities. Looking around the room today, you can see 
prosthetics, wheelchairs, software, and communications 
technologies developed by the United States. Many of these 
products are engineered, manufactured, or sold by U.S. 
corporations that can meet the new demands of parties seeking 
to implement their own disability legislation.
    The United States has valuable information on law and 
technology to share with the rest of the world, not only for 
the benefit of the world's 1 billion people with disabilities, 
but specifically for 54 million Americans who may wish to work, 
serve, study, and travel abroad.
    In 2012, 22 years after the passage of the ADA, it is 
unacceptable that many Americans with disabilities still cannot 
leave their own borders without the fear of stigma, barriers, 
and denial of the opportunity to participate in the place that 
they are visiting.
    Ratifying the CRPD costs nothing. It requires no changes in 
law, as we have heard today. It provides us the leadership 
opportunity to advance and sustain disability rights globally.
    Not joining this treaty comes with a grave cost--the 
inability of the United States to participate and lead and the 
loss of the opportunity to take a stand for what is right. 
Forty-two years after serving my country in Vietnam, I still 
believe in the liberty and freedom we enjoy in the United 
States and, frankly, our responsibility individually and 
collectively as a nation to serve and participate not only here 
at home, but globally.
    I am proud of this country and our laws, and I urge you, on 
behalf of 21 veterans organizations and 165 disability 
organizations, to support ratification of this treaty so that 
we can contribute and continue to contribute America's noble 
history of leadership.
    Senators, make us proud. Thank you.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Lancaster follows:]

                  Prepared Statement of John Lancaster

    Senator Kerry, Senator Lugar, and members of the Foreign Relations 
Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on behalf of 
American veterans and civilians with disabilities on an issue extremely 
important to us, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities. As a disabled veteran, I join 21 veterans service 
organizations and over 165 disability organizations in supporting the 
CRPD. I respectfully request that you support U.S. ratification of this 
disability treaty and move it to a floor vote in the Senate.
    Let me provide some background on my career and experience. I have 
served the U.S. in a variety of capacities. First, as a Second 
Lieutenant in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam war, then as an 
attorney for the Board of Veterans Appeals, and later as an Executive 
assistant to the Chairman and then Executive Director of the 
President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. I am 
currently a Board Member of the U.S. Institute of Peace. As a private 
citizen, I have also served as the Executive Director for the National 
Council on Independent Living, worked with Paralyzed Veterans of 
America, and sit on the boards of Handicap International, the United 
States International Council on Disabilities and the World Institute on 
Disability.
    As you can likely surmise, I have focused my entire career on the 
rights of people with disabilities. My firsthand experience with 
disability was early in my youth. I was commissioned a Second 
Lieutenant in the Marine Corps upon graduation from the University of 
Notre Dame and the Naval ROTC program in June 1967. After additional 
training, I had orders to Vietnam. I joined the Marine Corps because of 
a firm belief in the liberty, freedom, and opportunity our United 
States Constitution ensures. I believed then, as I do now, in our 
responsibility to serve our great country and what, at its best, we 
represent to all mankind. In 1968, I arrived in Vietnam during the Tet 
Offensive, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines as an Infantry 
Platoon Commander. Five months later, I was shot and injured in a 
firefight. After months of rehabilitation, I arrived back home in 
western New York a disabled veteran. Although my friends and family 
welcomed me home, society did not receive me quite as well. While there 
was certainly tension around the politics of the Vietnam war, it was 
the inaccessibility of my environment that made me feel the least 
welcome. I returned to a country not ready to receive me as a man who 
now used a wheelchair. Let me give you some examples. Buses were not 
equipped for wheelchair users, neither were trains. Airline companies 
at the time did not want to deal with wheelchairs. Most buildings, 
including government buildings, were not accessible. I experienced 
denial of the simplest pleasures such as going to a restaurant with my 
family. Even my own alma mater wanted to deny me the opportunity to 
advance my education. When I applied for law school at Notre Dame, I 
was told that although I qualified they could not accept me because the 
school was inaccessible. It was only when I agreed to make my own 
arrangements and bring my own chair that they accepted me. I graduated 
in 1974 with a law degree in spite of these unfortunate barriers. The 
employment discrimination I experienced as a young attorney was 
unbelievable. The only ones who would hire me were the VA's Board of 
Veterans Appeals.
    For many years, I struggled with needless environmental obstacles 
and barriers ever-present in my daily life. That is, until the U.S. 
enacted, in what I believe one of its proudest moments, the Americans 
with Disabilities Act under President George H.W. Bush. This law led 
the way for people with disabilities to be accepted in society. It 
removed people from isolation and segregation, and allowed us to enjoy 
the fruits of our country with our family and friends without having to 
bear the shame and stigma of being born with or having acquired a 
disability. In 1991, a year after the ADA passed, I had the pleasure to 
serve as an assistant to Justin Dart, the Chairman of the President's 
Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities under the George 
H.W. Bush administration. When President Clinton assumed Presidency, 
the committee's new Chair, Tony Coelho, appointed me as the Executive 
Director. In my 9 years with the committee, I traveled to every state 
in the country several times assisting business and government leaders 
in the ADA's implementation. I witnessed the historic changes brought 
about by the ADA. I can tell you that today our returning 
servicemembers with disabilities are welcomed home to a country that 
will not deny them any opportunity or freedom. As President George H.W. 
Bush had intended, this law crumbled the shameful walls of exclusion. I 
am so pleased to see that that President Bush is an advocate for the 
CRPD and is able to now see the global impact that this law is making 
22 years later.
    I tell this story of the ADA in our country because it is the 
movement of the United States disability community that has sprouted 
similar movements abroad and has inspired this global treaty that we 
are here to discuss today. The American disability community as a whole 
worked tirelessly to see the ADA passed, including veterans, the deaf 
community, people with developmental disabilities, and parents of 
people with disabilities. Following its enactment, we saw an incredible 
rise in the development of disability civil society abroad taking 
similar action to achieve their rights. As we all began to work 
together and informally share ideas and experiences, we decided that it 
was time for a global framework that would pave the way for a world 
that would protect the dignity and freedom of people with disabilities. 
The U.S. disability community was eager to participate.
    In 2001, the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of Persons 
with Disabilities began. Civil society contributed in an unprecedented 
way. Many of those in the room with us today were part of the 
disability community weighing in on the key principles of this 
important treaty. Drawing from the ADA, the CRPD seeks to ensure that 
people with disabilities are accepted in society, receive reasonable 
accommodations (a concept invented by the United States), and are 
guaranteed options for community living and rights to a family life. 
The adoption of the treaty in 2006 was an incredible accomplishment and 
has led to the development of disability rights around the world. For 
the record, let me name a few. Kenya, who ratified the treaty in 2008, 
worked to specifically include the rights of persons with disabilities 
in their new 2010 Constitution. Nigeria, a country that has a history 
of serious discrimination against children with albinism, has created a 
ministerial committee on albinism since their ratification of the 
treaty in 2010. Moldova, who also ratified in 2010, is currently using 
the CRPD to develop a roadmap for new methods to approach disability 
domestically with a particular focus on de-institutionalization. The 
United Arab Emirates, since ratifying the CRPD, has enacted a new law 
that focuses on promoting positive attitudes toward disability and 
improving building codes to provide accessibility. These are just a few 
examples, but the reality is that the CRPD is beginning to have a 
significant impact around the world.
    If the United States has accomplished so much then why ratify, you 
might ask. For one, I believe that U.S. participation on treaty 
implementation will yield even more progress and will offer the 
expertise and technical knowledge that many of these countries do not 
have in the area of disability rights. From a veteran perspective, I 
think we have much to gain from the improved accessibility of the 
world. Today, some disabled soldiers and Marines remain on Active Duty 
in spite of their disability, continuing to serve their country. These 
servicemembers should be afforded the same rights outside the United 
States as they enjoy here. For a disabled veteran working abroad, the 
adoption of disability rights and implementation of disability laws 
allows them to do their jobs more effectively and reaffirms what they 
served for: liberty and the opportunity to participate. Let me add, 
that I speak also for the many servicemembers and veterans abroad who 
travel with their children with disabilities. A more accessible 
environment in the countries where they are stationed will no doubt 
serve these children well. Many veterans, like myself, are engaged in 
international work in some capacity. From 2000 to 2004, I worked in 
Hanoi as an advisor to the Vietnamese Government on disability law, 
policy, and programs. The project was funded by the U.S. Agency for 
International Development. In Hanoi, accessible transportation was rare 
so I would hold onto a cyclo, a bicycle rickshaw, to get around. 
Following their signature of the CRPD in 2007, Vietnam began planning 
for an accessible rapid bus system in Hanoi. This system is now under 
development. The CRPD is a wonderful tool to help ensure the 
sustainability of USAID dollars spent overseas on disability related 
issues while also expanding access for veterans with disabilities, like 
myself, who choose to work in these countries.
    Veterans with disabilities have contributed to the American 
disability movement in many ways, including through participation in 
sport and recreation. This has destroyed stereotypes and created 
positive messages about equality, dignity, and worth. Accessibility is 
a major challenge for American athletes with disabilities during these 
international trips. From being compelled to deal with air travel 
regulations that force them to sit in the back of an airplane and crawl 
to the aircraft bathroom, to pilots who refuse to take them or their 
gear onboard, to hotel accommodations that have limited or no 
accessibility, to competition facilities with inaccessible bathrooms, 
showers, and locker rooms--American athletes face countless 
discriminatory and inaccessible obstacles abroad.
    Despite these challenges, the 2012 Paralympic Games later this 
summer demonstrates the growth and interest in sport for athletes with 
disabilities. As this committee considers this treaty the world will be 
turning their eyes to London for both the Olympics and Paralympics. The 
International Paralympic Committee has confirmed that 165 countries--19 
more than in Beijing 4 years ago--will send more than 4,200 competitors 
to the Games making it the largest Paralympic competition to date. The 
U.S., a leader in sport for people with disabilities, sends one of the 
largest teams, and our athletes are some of the best trained and 
coached in the world. This year's delegation will also feature many new 
athletes with disabilities--veterans and Active Duty service men and 
women--who are finding success competing in Paralympic sport. 
Regrettably they are subjected to the same inhospitable conditions 
created by the lack of accessibility in the international travel and 
sporting environments found in other countries. As we send our teams 
off this summer, and celebrate their success in international 
competition, we should do so with a favorable vote on the CRPD behind 
us. Ratification of the CRPD is a must for the U.S. to remain 
competitive since our athletes must compete in international 
competitions to obtain and maintain their international rankings.
    These are just a few examples of why it is in the United States 
interest to ratify the CRPD. As the treaty package presented to the 
Senate reveals, the U.S. has an incomparable set of laws that protect 
the rights of people with disabilities. Looking around this room today, 
you can see the prosthetics, wheelchairs, software and communications 
technologies developed by the United States. As more countries ratify 
at an unprecedented pace, the need for accessible devices and software 
steadily increases for people with disabilities around the world. Many 
of these products are engineered, manufactured, or sold by U.S. 
corporations that can meet these new demands. Indeed, the CRPD is good 
for all American businesses. It will level the playing field for 
foreign businesses. They will now have to comply with the employment 
rights and the accommodation requirements that U.S. businesses already 
meet. The United States has valuable information to share with the rest 
of the world, not only for the benefit of the world's 1 billion people 
with disabilities, but specifically for the 54 million people with 
disabilities who may wish to work, serve, study, and travel abroad. In 
2012, 22 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities 
Act, it is unacceptable that many Americans with disabilities cannot 
leave the borders of the United States without the fear of stigma, 
barriers, and denial of their rights.
    Ratifying the CRPD costs nothing, will require no changes in law, 
and provides us the leadership opportunity to effectively guide a 
framework for countries to advance and sustain disability rights in 
their own country. Not joining this treaty, however, comes with a grave 
cost: the inability of the U.S. to participate and the loss of an 
opportunity to take a stand for what's right. Forty-two years after I 
served our country in Vietnam, I still believe in the same principles 
of why I first enlisted: I stand behind a firm belief in the liberty 
and freedom we enjoy in the United States and our responsibility to 
serve and participate. I am proud of this country and our laws and I 
urge you, on behalf of 21 veterans service organizations and 165 
disability organizations, to support ratification of this treaty so 
that we can participate and continue America's noble history of 
leadership.

    Senator Shaheen [presiding]. Thank you very much, Mr. 
Lancaster.
    As you can see, we have had a little bit of a revolving 
gavel this morning. I will be, hopefully, chairing until the 
end of the hearing. I am the person with the most flexible 
schedule this morning, apparently.
    And with that in mind, I would like to ask Senator Durbin 
to go first with his questions.
    Senator Durbin. Thanks, Senator Shaheen.
    I think Senator Kerry saved the best for last in terms of 
your chairing this hearing.
    Senator Shaheen. That is very nice. Thank you.
    Senator Durbin. Thank you.
    General Thornburgh, thank you for being here, and your 
testimony I reviewed.
    Mr. Wodatch, thank you for your continuing work in this 
area on disability rights.
    And Mr. Lancaster, thank you for serving our country so 
nobly and for speaking on behalf of the 20-plus veterans 
organizations that have endorsed this Convention. But thank you 
for being here and explaining why it is so important from the 
veterans' point of view.
    Dr. Farris, politicians are often accused of saying one 
thing and then contradicting it with something else. And I am 
going to give you a chance to clear up something in your 
testimony which I think is contradictory.
    You have bold print here in reference to this treaty, 
calling it ``false'' and ``misleading.'' ``This treaty requires 
radical changes to American law,'' and you go so far as to say 
this treaty would, ``violate the principles of American 
sovereignty and liberty.'' That is, I think, almost as strong 
as I have ever read. It suggests that this treaty is a 
blockbuster change in terms of law and sovereignty.
    But then, then in the same statement, you quote Professor 
Louis Henkin, who says that when you put reservations on a 
treaty, you are pretending to assume international obligations 
but, in fact, undertaking nothing. And then you go on to say 
the message will be that treaties are for show and have no more 
impact than you want them to have.
    Dr. Farris, you can't have it both ways. This can't be the 
end of American sovereignty as we know it and still be some 
pretend effort that has no impact whatsoever. So which is it?
    Dr. Farris. Senator, I think you misunderstand the nature 
of my argument from Professor Henkin. What Professor Henkin is 
addressing is the approach of ratification that says we are not 
going to do anything more than existing law. He says that is 
inappropriate.
    I don't think that that is what is going on here, but that 
is what we have heard all day long, that we are doing nothing 
more than just simply ratifying, recommitting ourselves to 
obeying existing American law. And if that is what the treaty 
is about, if that was true, then the treaty does nothing and is 
callous and misleading.
    But it is not what the treaty does because I enter this 
with the assumption that the United States is going to obey the 
treaty in good faith. And if we are going to obey the treaty in 
good faith, then we have the obligation to conform our law to 
the principles of it.
    In legal terms, Senator Durbin, I have argued in the 
alternative, which often happens. And if one thing is true, 
then one critique applies. If something else is true, if the 
other alternative is true, then the other critique applies. I 
assume that we are going to be complying with the treaty and 
not doing what Iran has done and said, we are going to obey the 
treaty when we want to and we are not going to obey the treaty 
when we don't want to.
    Senator Durbin. Dr. Farris, we have ample testimony that 
the Americans with Disabilities Act already is in full 
compliance with the principles of this treaty. Let me address 
one issue that has arisen several times.
    Senator McCain made a point early on that he is proud of 
his pro-life status when it comes to voting and is also 
sensitive to the fact that many babies with disabilities 
overseas are denied life. And if they are allowed to live, are 
denied access, education, opportunities.
    And this may change in other countries. We certainly hope 
that it does. And now the argument comes in your testimony 
that, in fact, this is somehow going to promote abortion.
    I would like to call your attention to several things. In 
2006, the National Right to Life Committee stated, quote, and 
this is in reference to the same treaty as adopted by the 
United Nations. And I quote from the National Right to Life 
committee, ``Even though the treaty includes the undefined and 
controversial term `reproductive health,' its inclusion cannot 
legitimately be misinterpreted to include abortion or to create 
any new rights, such as a right to an abortion.''
    So said the National Right to Life Committee in 2006. The 
National Right to Life Committee, the Holy See, and pro-life 
countries that have signed the treaty all concluded that there 
is no right to an abortion set forth in this treaty. Isn't it 
true that the only folks to disagree with these leading pro-
life voices are you and Mr. Groves?
    Dr. Farris. No, Senator. Three nations--Poland, Malta, and 
one other that I mentioned in my testimony--have taken 
reservations to Article 25 on the question of abortion. Those 
nations were convinced that it was necessary, too. They read 
the treaty the same way that I read the treaty.
    And it is not a question of whether they have the right to 
an abortion. The question is whether they have a right to 
abortion funding. That would be the nature of Article 25.
    Senator Durbin. Well, let me say, Dr. Farris, that what I 
think was made clear in earlier testimony from the Department 
of Justice is that we are ending discrimination. The existing 
laws of the country will prevail in this circumstance, whatever 
those laws may be, on controversial issues like this.
    But I think that earlier statement raises some serious 
questions about your conclusion.
    Thank you.
    Dr. Farris. Senator, may I respond briefly to that?
    Senator Durbin. Sure.
    Dr. Farris. What the Department of Justice was relying on 
was simply the language of subsection (b) of Article 25. That 
is not what all is in Article 25.
    Article 25 contains other provisions beyond the 
nondiscrimination provision. And the preamble and other 
subsections of the treaty require the provision of full health 
services. And there's no reason to believe that the provision 
of full health services as defined by the treaty would 
include----
    Senator Durbin. Dr. Farris, there is an express statement 
in the reservation that this does not create any personal cause 
of action or right in the courts of the United States. Now, 
unless you just reject that out of hand and don't want to read 
it, I don't think you can take that position.
    Thank you very much.
    Dr. Farris. Senator, I am not taking----
    Senator Durbin. I get the last word. I'm a Senator. Thank 
you.
    Senator Shaheen. Senator Lugar.
    Senator Lugar. Without being too repetitious, let me just 
say that, as I have heard the testimony from both of our 
panels, essentially, we have had reservations to this treaty. 
And they are meant to protect our laws, or various aspects that 
were meant to be protected.
    But the administration is advocating that we ratify the 
treaty, because we would join a committee which serves as a 
forum for reforms throughout the world, so that we have a place 
around the table.
    And we are able, on behalf of Americans who go to other 
countries, as well as citizens of those countries, to bring 
about changes that we believe would be constructive, 
recognizing that the other countries with whom we are 
discussing this may have reservations and decide that even 
though we have very good will, in terms of humanity, they would 
disagree on certain particulars as to what is going to occur in 
their countries.
    So essentially, the treaty provides for this forum that 
brings about a worldwide discussion. And our thought is that 
the example we present, and maybe other countries feel the same 
way, would lead to humanitarian changes that were constructive, 
and we would applaud those and feel that is valuable to have.
    Now, some are arguing that we could participate in 
international conversations in any event, and at least profess 
the things we believe, and other countries might be moved to do 
those things. And, therefore, that treaty is not necessary for 
all of this.
    My question, I suppose, is to ask the panel, why is the 
treaty, the committee we have heard discussed today, that we 
are not around the table with as it stands, important in the 
form of a treaty, as opposed to our attempting to take the 
initiative and maybe finding other fora in which our advocacy 
for change is made and we try to be persuasive?
    Would anyone like to volunteer as to why the treaty forum 
is preferable?
    Mr. Thornburgh.
    Mr. Thornburgh. I think, Senator, what we have to recognize 
as a leader in the area of disability rights is that we must 
use every opportunity we have to spread the gospel, I guess one 
might say, and at the same time recognize that this is a very 
dynamic area.
    Disability rights is a work in progress, and we have a lot 
to contribute to the dialogue that ensues in the discussion of 
that work in progress. And I am not prepared to say that we 
couldn't learn from others' experience as time goes on.
    The fact that it is a work in progress is evident by your 
own experience in the Congress. As much as we revere the 
Americans with Disabilities Act and have praised it rightfully 
in our discussions today, in 2008, we needed the ADA Amendments 
Act to adjust to certain court decisions and actions that had 
taken place, to update, upgrade, if you will, that important 
legislation.
    That kind of dynamic is going to ensue one way or another 
under this Convention as time goes on. And for us to turn our 
back on the opportunity to make constructive contributions to 
that dialogue, and to foster those improvements and changes 
that might be necessary, would seem to me to be foolhardy in 
the extreme if our commitment really is to the widest and 
fullest enjoyment of disability rights.
    None of this would involve us, in any of these changes, in 
any change in our domestic law, necessarily, because, clearly, 
to the point of exhaustion, I think we have made clear that 
there is no sanction authority, no real capability on the part 
of this committee or on the U.N. itself to force the United 
States to make changes.
    It is merely, I think, an important avenue for us to pursue 
in seeing that our voice is heard and that we listen to others.
    Senator Lugar. In essence, this Convention is an important 
enough forum, as opposed to other committees or other fora we 
might find somewhere in the world, this particular one is 
important enough that it deserves this attention, because the 
118 countries are there or because of the prestige now attached 
to it.
    I am trying to find specifically why this route is the 
preferable one.
    Mr. Wodatch. Let me add to the discussion. The disabilities 
committee is one venue that the Convention sets up. There is 
also an annual meeting at the U.N., a conference of state 
parties. It was alluded to earlier by the State Department.
    This is the meeting where the countries of the world who 
have ratified come together to share their best practices, to 
understand how they should move their laws, what their policies 
should be, what their regulations should say.
    I think if we ratified the treaty, we are able to 
participate and bring U.S. expertise to those meetings. We can 
bring discussions of how we have complied with the ADA in this 
country in a low-cost manner, the importance of having 
accessibility building codes that are meaningful, the 
importance of enforcement mechanisms and how they can work in 
their cultures and their legal systems.
    Unless we have ratified the treaty, we don't get a place at 
the table.
    Senator Lugar. Thank you very much.
    Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    Senator Shaheen. Senator DeMint has requested that, since 
he has to leave, he could go next.
    So, Senator DeMint.
    Senator DeMint. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    And I want to thank Senator Kerry and everyone. It has been 
a great discussion. I appreciate all our panelists, all the 
folks who have come today.
    I think what we have done with disabilities in America is 
probably one of those areas that makes us really proud to be an 
American. We made incredible progress.
    And as our panels have said today, we really inspire the 
world to do better, and we helped to create the global 
framework for what to do with disabilities. So what we have 
done with the ADA has basically been codified by the United 
Nations, and being shared all over the world, is something that 
we should be proud of.
    But one of the things I learned in my years in the private 
sector, working with continuous quality improvement, is that we 
can never accept the status quo. The United States can do even 
better than we are doing.
    And all of you know, being involved with veterans and 
disabilities, that throughout the year, every year, 
disabilities groups, veterans groups, are meeting. They're 
talking. They're discovering ways to help the disabled more, 
using new technologies. They're advocating with local, state, 
Federal officials.
    Some things are being done by governments. More things are 
being done voluntarily by industry and builders and those who 
are just trying to be more accommodating.
    We cannot accept where we are.
    And now, after we have inspired the world, to come in today 
and say, well, we have to be a part of a legally binding 
international treaty in order to lead the world, I know what's 
going to happen after working in quality improvement. All of 
these agencies and groups that are involved with disabilities 
are going to be working to be prepared for this 4-year study.
    Just like our teachers teach the test, we're going to see 
our disabilities community preparing for the status quo, rather 
than continuing what is happening. They have to please this 
international committee with what we have already codified.
    I am just convinced that aspirational goals are important, 
but standards have to continuously improve. Protocols, 
technologies, and, folks, there are so many ways, voluntarily, 
through associations.
    I know how qualities improve with peer groups, industry 
groups around the country, coming together, voluntarily sharing 
best practices, just continuing to raise those standards.
    So I'm not advocating for no standards. I'm just advocating 
for no status quo, because we need to continue to lead the 
world.
    In submitting to an international treaty, on one hand 
saying it has no enforcement power and it is not legally 
binding, and the other hand saying we have to be involved with 
a legally binding international treaty, it's just completely 
inconsistent.
    We need to lead the world. We need to continue to make 
progress in this area. But, folks, submitting ourselves--and 
you can't say it's not submitting; we are signing a legal 
document to be a part of something--I think it is going to lock 
us into a status quo that is far beneath where the United 
States needs to end up.
    So this cause is too important. I want to be much further 
than where we are 5 years from now, not trying to comply with 
existing standards that we have today. And that is what is 
going to happen under an international agreement, because, as 
Dr. Farris has said, the United States follows the rules. If we 
sign here that we are going to follow the rules of this treaty, 
we will adapt our laws to what is in it.
    So again, I thank everyone. I think it is important to 
continue to bring it up.
    Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the give-and-take that you have 
allowed today. You have been very fair with the time.
    I hope we can continue to progress with this.
    But I hope we will all question whether or not we need to 
be a part of a legal situation around the world, when what is 
going on now, that everyone is saying is working, has been 
because we set the standard for the world and they are 
following us. We need to continue to raise that standard.
    Thanks for allowing me to go out of turn.
    Senator Shaheen. Senator Kerry.
    The Chairman. Madam Chairman, thank you.
    And thanks very much, Senator DeMint. I appreciate your 
comments of a moment ago.
    And I happen to agree with you, Senator.
    I guess he is leaving. It's too bad, because I was about to 
welcome him to the ranks of being the strongest proponent for 
the rights of those with disabilities and wanting to advance it 
faster.
    But there is something incongruous in the notion that he 
wants to do that--and I am not diminishing his genuine intent 
to do it. There's just something fundamentally incongruous if 
all of the advocates of day-to-day lifetime endeavor are saying 
they need this treaty in order to best be able to do that.
    So if you are talking about not being able to have two 
things at the same time, he says you can't sign onto a treaty 
and not accept the notion that there are real obligations 
there. I happen to agree with him. I don't think anybody should 
diminish that. I want real obligations there. And I think that 
is what we are signing onto. And they are clear what they are.
    So he is absolutely correct. You can't have it both ways 
and say it doesn't mean anything, it's not going to have any 
impact.
    What it doesn't mean is that it requires something 
different of the States or that the Federal Government is going 
to impose something on the States. I mean, there's a whole 
series of things that it doesn't mean.
    But it does mean, we are trying to establish a standard 
that is a high standard on a global basis, and the United 
States happens to be further along in that, and it is not going 
to require changes in our laws.
    Now, I think we have to frame this accurately as we go 
along here.
    But, similarly, you can't say I want to advance the cause 
for those with disabilities more than anybody else when 
everybody in the community believes you have to have this 
treaty to do it.
    So I think the record has to show more clearly why the 
members of the community specifically have come to that 
conclusion that differs with someone like Senator DeMint or 
others who oppose the treaty. What is it that really comes 
through here?
    Now, I have a number of questions to try to flesh that out 
a little bit.
    In your statement, Dr. Farris, you say that you deeply 
resent the attempts by advocates of the treaty to mislead 
members of the disabled community with a false promise, that 
U.S. ratification will lead to material improvements when 
Americans with disabilities travel to other nations.
    Now, I want to give the advocates of the treaty an 
opportunity to respond to that. I don't know if that happened 
previously.
    But I first want to make sure I understand why you are so 
resentful of those advocates. Is your point that there is no 
mechanism by which an American under this treaty could sue 
Vietnam or the United Kingdom or whatever country they are 
traveling in?
    I mean, what is the point of how they are being misled 
here?
    Dr. Farris. The impression is being given by the 
administration's materials and by the testimony today that if 
we ratify these treaties, suddenly, when Americans travel to 
other nations, it is going to be a more accessible environment.
    The Chairman. OK, let me stop you there.
    Mr. Wodatch, can you speak to that?
    Mr. Wodatch. Certainly.
    I believe the State Department testified earlier that 
ratification, the results of ratification, will bring about 
changes in the laws of other countries because of our 
leadership and intervention with them. There will be changes in 
their laws when we sit down with them and teach them and work 
with them to develop an accessibility code that has the right 
slope for a ramp, that has the right width for the door.
    The Chairman. So is it the ``suddenly'' that you disagree 
with, Dr. Farris? Or is it what Mr. Wodatch just said? He says 
there will be changes.
    Dr. Farris. There will be changes that are effective only 
when there is domestic law at each level. American 
ratification--the question is, does American ratification lead 
to new laws in, let's say, Portugal relative to wheelchair ramp 
levels and angles and so on.
    And it is basically the argument, because we gain a seat at 
this international table primarily for diplomats, we will 
suddenly--that will translate into better laws in Portugal.
    If that was true, if human rights treaties lead to improved 
laws in other nations, and there was a track record for that, 
we'd see it in other areas.
    Take, for example, North Korea has ratified the ICCPR. Does 
anybody in their right mind think that North Korea is living up 
to international standards?
    Sweden has ratified multiple international treaties, 
including the ICCPR and the ICESCR, both of which have parents' 
rights and education provisions. Yet Sweden kidnaps kids off of 
planes who are on their way to another nation, where they are a 
dual citizen, because they were homeschooling. They flaunt 
their international obligations.
    The point is, international obligations do not lead to 
national legislation. What leads to national legislation are 
political movements within those countries.
    The Chairman. Will you speak to that, Mr. Wodatch?
    Mr. Wodatch. I attended the sessions that developed this 
Convention. And it was clear the United States has a different 
view toward treaties. We will only ratify a treaty if we know 
that we can comply with that treaty. The other nations of the 
world do not follow that.
    It became very clear, the countries of South America--
Ecuador and Mexico--who were very strong proponents of this 
treaty, Chili, other countries came to us and said we need--to 
get domestic law, we need a statement from the U.N. that this 
is important. They need leadership from the United States to 
say this is how it works when you ratify it.
    The Chairman. You mean from the United States?
    Mr. Wodatch. A statement from the United States, that we 
will come and work with them.
    And that has begun to happen already. If you look at the 
countries that have ratified, they are making changes to their 
domestic law.
    Spain has brought about a new comprehensive law. Great 
Britain has, for the first time, attempted to cover its private 
sector to make it accessible. There are changes that will come 
about. There will be more. And the ability of the United States 
to work with those countries and have them develop disability 
laws that are effective and pragmatic will bring about positive 
results for not only the people of those countries with 
disabilities, but for American citizens who travel and work and 
live in those countries.
    The Chairman. I think, Dr. Farris, one thing I would say to 
you is, look, I mean, in all of our perfection here in the 
United States, we have a lot of laws that we fall short on.
    I used to be a prosecutor. We spent years and years trying 
to deal with whether it is drugs or prostitution or gambling or 
whatever. And we are not as effective as we like to think we 
are in a lot of things. We fall short, but we are aspirational. 
We have a standard. And we try to apply it as evenly as 
possible. That is true among nations also.
    And I think you are inevitably going to find one nation or 
another that may not apply something as well. It doesn't mean 
that you are not moving upward, ratcheting upward.
    But let me just ask you, Mr. Lancaster, in your statement, 
I don't see anywhere in it that you assert that Americans are 
going to be given individual and enforceable rights under this 
treaty when they travel abroad.
    I understand that your point, and I have a stack of letters 
from every conceivable disabilities and veterans advocacy group 
making the same point, and that is that the Convention will 
give the United States an additional tool by which we can 
encourage other governments to adopt their own laws and improve 
conditions for the disabled.
    Now, No. 1, do I understand your point correctly, Mr. 
Lancaster? And No. 2, do I understand that you have examples of 
where, when you traveled abroad, you faced disability 
challenges? And you believe this will, in fact, address some of 
those?
    Mr. Lancaster. Yes, you do understand me correctly, 
Senator, and the points that I was making.
    And yes, I do know of significant impact that the treaty is 
already beginning to have on a number of countries. Let me give 
you some quick examples.
    The often-troubled country of Kenya, in 2010, has adopted 
many of the principles that are contained in the treaty in 
including people with disabilities in their new Constitution in 
2010.
    United Arab Emirates is making big moves around 
architectural barrier standards, so that they can remove those, 
and new buildings and facilities will be modified and new ones 
will come online appropriately, so that they are accessible to 
people with disabilities.
    They have also put into law something that is a problem, 
frankly, in many countries of the world, in many cultures, but 
a law that is now encouraging the people in the society to look 
differently at disability and to be accepting of people with 
disabilities in a variety of walks of life. A very significant 
move and something that in our culture we may not totally 
understand but in their culture has huge impact.
    Moldova is making significant change in their laws to make 
sure that they aren't going the route of institutionalizing 
people and putting kids away in special schools.
    I know from the work that I have done in Vietnam and from 
the years that I lived over there and continuing to follow it, 
that since this treaty was passed, Vietnam is starting to make 
moves in a variety of areas--transportation, the removal of 
architectural barriers.
    They are, frankly, looking to see how the United States is 
going to do with this treaty. And I am not going to speak for 
the Government of Vietnam, but I bet you they are waiting to 
see whether we ratify before they ratify and really embrace 
this movement. And they have done a lot of work, including 
starting to refine their own disability law so that it does 
comply with all the aspects of the Convention.
    The Chairman. Let me just interrupt you there, if I can, 
because I have gone over my time.
    I have one more question. And I ask for indulgence to do 
it, and then I will stop.
    As I said, the record will remain open for a week.
    But one other thing I would like to just get on the record, 
if I can, and leave this question out there.
    Dr. Farris, in your written statement, you say that the 
treaty is going to require radical changes in American law. I 
would like you to say what those radical changes would be and 
particularly given the testimony to the effect that there would 
be no changes required.
    We can't have it both ways. It just can't require radical 
changes and at the same time not require any, which is what we 
have been told. And so I would like both Mr. Wodatch and 
Attorney General Thornburgh to bear down on this question.
    I would like you to answer first, Dr. Farris, and then I 
would like both of you to bear down on, since the treaty is not 
self-executing in the United States, it is hard for me to 
understand, given the reservations and declarations and 
understandings, there would be a change needed.
    I would like Mr. Thornburgh, if you would also, General 
Thornburgh, if you would point out to us the bottom line as to 
why it is so critical to ratify this to advance the rights of 
disabled people measured against what Dr. Farris is saying.
    Dr. Farris. Senator Kerry, I, frankly, just don't accept 
the conclusions by the State Department and the Department of 
Justice concerning the effects of the reservations.
    If you examine the details of the reservations, there was a 
comparison of the federalism reservation in this treaty with 
what was purported to be a federalism reservation in the ICCPR. 
It is actually a federalism understanding in the ICCPR. The 
language is different, and that difference is significant. We 
have to drill down on specific language.
    None of the testimony that has been proffered today--excuse 
me. Most of the testimony that has been proffered today is at a 
35,000-foot level. There's been very little drilling down on 
the exact meaning of terms and articles. And because I proceed 
on the premise that the United States will live up to its 
obligations in good faith for ratifying the treaty, we have a 
binding international obligation.
    That doesn't mean some committee forces us to do it. We 
force ourselves to live up to the international law that we say 
we are going to live up to. And so the non-self-executing 
provisions of the treaty doesn't mean we don't have to change 
our laws. It only specifies which agency of government is 
responsible for changing our law.
    And the answer is, because of the virtue of that 
declaration, Congress is responsible. The federalism provision 
doesn't mean that there is no shifting in power between the 
States and the Federal Government. That is not what it says. 
That is not what it means. That is not what it will mean in 
actual practice.
    Congress will gain additional power, because under the 
necessary and proper clause under the Constitution, Congress 
has all the authority it needs to implement any duties that it 
has. Once the United States ratifies a treaty, Congress, the 
Nation, has the duty to comply with the treaty.
    And so any law that is necessary and proper to comply with 
that treaty is fair game and it is within our constitutional 
prerogative. And that fits within the federalism reservation.
    Basically, Congress will help plenary authority over all 
these subjects, whereas the States currently have at least some 
semblance of authority on these things.
    The Chairman. So you believe that President George Herbert 
Walker Bush and Attorney General Thornburgh and Majority Leader 
Robert Dole, and a bunch of other people, just don't understand 
the Constitution or can't read the law?
    Dr. Farris. I believe they reached incorrect conclusions 
about the meaning of the reservations.
    The Chairman. You have your opportunity to defend 
yourselves, gentlemen.
    Mr. Wodatch. The treaty, as ratified, that the 
administration is proposing, would include a series of 
reservations, understandings, and declarations. But I think we 
start with the treaty first.
    And the treaty first is a nondiscrimination treaty. Its 
core is equal opportunity. Its core is to give people with 
disabilities in the country that ratifies the treaty the same 
rights that people without disabilities have.
    We start from that premise. Even Article 7 about children 
that Dr. Farris talked about, the first Article 7 provision 1 
talks about ``on an equal basis with others.'' It, by its own 
terms, is a nondiscrimination provision.
    But the administration's very careful package of 
reservations, understandings, and declarations takes the treaty 
further. And once they are included in the treaty, they become 
the treaty.
    Therefore, the reservation on federalism talks about the 
allocation of responsibility between State and local government 
and Federal Government, and says that the United States is 
undertaking its obligations under this treaty with an 
understanding that it will follow the laws of the Federal 
Government and not change the laws of the State or local 
governments. That becomes part of the treaty.
    Therefore, the State law on civil commitment, on 
guardianship, on parental rights, will remain unchanged by this 
treaty.
    The same thing with the reservation on private conduct is 
very important, because it will exclude that zone of private 
activity that is protected by the United States Constitution, 
as well as give meaning to the U.S. laws that we enforce.
    For example, Title I of the ADA applies to employers, but 
it applies to employers with 15 or more employees. What the 
private conduct reservation says is, our understanding of our 
obligation under this treaty will be to follow the laws that we 
have.
    Therefore, the treaty will not by its operation change the 
U.S. law or the exemptions in the U.S. law for covering 
churches, for covering private homes, or for covering small 
businesses.
    The understanding that talks about economic, social, and 
cultural rights, that is a very important understanding, says 
that there will be no new rights. You can read some of the 
provisions of this treaty as creating rights that we have not 
recognized. That understanding is very important. It says that 
our understanding of how we will comply with this treaty is by 
looking at the laws of the United States. And the package the 
administration sent forward includes a very comprehensive list 
of those laws that I think we have all agreed are the gold 
standard for the world to follow on what are disability rights 
for people with disabilities.
    And then the non-self-executing declaration makes clear 
that no one--there are no individually enforceable rights, and 
no one can take this treaty and enforce it in the United 
States.
    The Chairman. In the interest of time, if I could ask you 
to give a quick answer, and then we can get the full answer.
    Mr. Thornburgh. I will give you a very quick answer, 
because I am not as good a lawyer as John Wodatch is.
    [Laughter.]
    Mr. Thornburgh. I see nothing in this proposed treaty and 
its reservations, understandings, and declarations as part of 
the administration package that would oblige the Government of 
the United States at the Federal, State, or local level to 
undertake any action whatsoever. Nor do I see any limitations 
upon what the governments of the United States at the Federal, 
State, or local level can do in the ordinary pursuit of their 
constitutional responsibilities.
    The Chairman. Well, I thank you for that very much. When I 
hear the former Attorney General of the United States, who I 
know is a terrific lawyer, saying you are not as good a lawyer, 
it is that old, ``I'm just a country lawyer'' routine.
    [Laughter.]
    We've heard that before a few juries in our lifetime.
    Thank you very much, all of you. I really appreciate you 
being here very, very much.
    Madam Chairman, thank you.
    Senator Shaheen. Senator Lee.
    Senator Lee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    And thanks to each of you for joining us today. I am 
honored by your presence and appreciate your insight into these 
matters.
    Mr. Groves, I wanted to start with you. And I would like to 
turn, if we can, to Article 46 of the Convention, with regard 
to reservations.
    It says that reservations incompatible with the object and 
purpose of the present convention shall not be permitted. I 
don't know whether you can answer this for me or not, but I am 
curious as to who is the arbiter of this? Who decides whether 
or not there is a compatibility problem with the reservation, 
between a reservation and the Convention itself?
    Mr. Groves. Thank you, Mr. Lee.
    I mean, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities will certainly and definitively believe that they 
are the arbiter of what is and what is not the object and 
purpose of the Convention.
    This would be just the latest in a continuing pattern of 
treaty rights bodies over in Geneva who have said, over the 
objections of U.S. officials in both the Clinton and Bush 
administrations, that they are the final say on what the terms 
of a treaty mean. They are the ones who have the final say on 
how the treaty shall be applied and whether your domestic laws 
are in compliance or in violation of the norms and values that 
the committee has interpreted.
    So make no mistake about it. And the United States is 
regularly requested by treaty body committees to remove 
reservations and understandings and declarations that we have 
submitted when we have ratified these treaties.
    So my view is that the committee would believe themselves 
to be the definitive judge on that.
    Senator Lee. OK, OK.
    One of the reasons that that provision, Article 46, caught 
my attention was because I started noticing some interesting 
language throughout the Convention that Dr. Farris referred to 
in his written remarks.
    Dr. Farris, I was wondering if you could just tell us 
briefly about the dichotomy between what you referred to in 
your written statement--on the one hand, civil and political 
rights, as they're recognized under the rubric of international 
conventions, and on the other hand, economic, cultural, and 
social rights?
    Dr. Farris. Yes, Senator Lee, thank you for the chance to 
explain that.
    In human rights laws, they are basically five segments of 
human rights--civil, political, economic, social, and cultural 
rights. That division is most celebrated in the two treaties, 
the ICCPR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political 
Rights, and the ICESCR, the International Covenant on Economic, 
Social, and Cultural Rights.
    Nondiscrimination is a civil or political right. It is what 
government cannot do to you. It cannot discriminate against 
you. It cannot deny you freedom of speech. It cannot deny you 
the freedom of religion.
    The American constitutional rights that we know, including 
the equal protection clause, including the Bill of Rights, are 
all negative rights in terms of the rubric of international 
human rights laws.
    Positive rights--economic, social, and cultural rights--are 
what the government must to do for you. If you just think of 
the word ``entitlements,'' you understand the nature of an 
economic, social, and cultural rights.
    And the reason the United States has never joined the 
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights 
is because of a longtime understanding in international law 
that commits us, essentially, to a program of socialism.
    Senator Lee. And do we have any treaty currently enforced 
that the United States has ratified that embraces economic, 
social, and cultural rights?
    Dr. Farris. There is no treaty that the United States is a 
party to today where economic, social, and cultural rights are 
a chief feature. There may be some stray references here or 
there in other treaties.
    But as a core feature, treaties like CEDA or the CRC, the 
Convention of Rights for Children, and other economic, social, 
and cultural rights treaties, we have not ratified them 
precisely because it commits our Nation to a program of 
internationally monitored socialism, what the government must 
furnish the people.
    This would be the first treaty in U.S. history where we--
and that's the reason I said it was so radical, is that it 
would be the first treaty to commit us to international 
government programs of socialism through the ESC, or the 
economic, social, and cultural rights provisions.
    And I don't believe that the understanding--first of all, I 
don't place too much weight in understandings. I'd rather have 
reservations. The understanding the United States has written 
in this regard doesn't say we're not going to do this. It just 
says we are going to do it pursuant to Federal law, which on 
the one hand, the treaty creates the obligation to engage in 
these economic, social, and cultural rights. And the ESCR 
understanding just says we are going to do it according to 
Federal law.
    It doesn't say insofar as such rights are recognized and 
implemented under existing U.S. Federal law. If it said that, 
then OK. Then it means what everybody has been purporting it to 
mean.
    But it doesn't say existing Federal law. It just means 
Federal law has got to comply with the treaty relative to these 
matters.
    Senator Lee. So you don't see that understanding with 
respect to economic, social, and cultural rights as an opt-out 
by the United States of an effort by this Convention to embrace 
economic, social, and cultural rights?
    Dr. Farris. I read that understanding to assign 
jurisdiction to Congress to comply with it. That's it. It 
doesn't give that responsibility to States. It gives that 
responsibility to Congress.
    It is an assignment of jurisdiction. It is not a denial of 
any duties of the United States to comply with the rights 
created under the ESC rubric of the treaty.
    Senator Lee. And there are some affirmative duties under 
that, as far as I can tell. Unless I am reading it incorrectly, 
I see Article 4 of the Convention, which deals with general 
obligation of states' parties to the Convention.
    Article 4, Section 2 says with regard to economic, social, 
and cultural rights, each state party undertakes to take such 
measures to the maximum of its available resources and, where 
needed, within the framework of international cooperation, with 
a view to achieving progressively the full realization of those 
rights.
    So you would interpret that there to say of those rights, 
meaning those economic, social, and cultural rights.
    Dr. Farris. There is no doubt that that is what that means. 
If you would write any other answer on an exam in my class in 
public international law, I would fail you for failing to 
understand the meaning of a treaty.
    You absolutely correctly said, if we are going to comply 
with the treaty--now, all of my testimony is presumed that 
America is going to comply with the treaty. If we are not going 
to comply, then all my concerns go away.
    But if we're going to comply with the treaty, we have a 
duty to comply with the provisions relative to economic, 
social, and cultural rights. And under the rubric of the 
understanding, all it does is assign jurisdiction to Congress 
to do the complying.
    And so, yes, there are lots of things. The private action 
provision in that same Article 4 says that no person shall 
discriminate against any person on the basis of disability, 
which, setting aside the RUDs for a second, and just taking the 
treaty on its face, that means the traveling salesman comes to 
my front door and wants to get into my house and he is in a 
wheelchair and I don't have accessibility for him, then I am in 
violation of the treaty.
    The United States has a responsibility to pass laws to make 
me make my house and every homeowner in America make their 
house accessible, because no person can discriminate on the 
basis of disability. ``No person'' is very broad. It means 
everybody. It is every business, every home, everybody.
    Now, the question is----
    Senator Shaheen. Dr. Farris and Senator Lee, I am going to 
cut you off at this point, because, Senator Lee, your time has 
expired.
    And I would still like to ask some questions, so given that 
we're at the end of this hearing, I am going to reserve the 
right to do that.
    Senator Lee. Thank you, Chair.
    Senator Shaheen. Thank you.
    Mr. Lancaster, I want to go back to you, because I think 
your effort to address the question about traveling and the 
challenges that we face, and the difference that this treaty 
might make for Americans in that respect got cut a little 
short. So I want to go back and ask you, as the only person on 
this panel who has personally had to experience the challenges 
that members of our disabilities community face when they 
travel here in America or abroad, if you could, again, address 
why you think this treaty would make a difference for people 
with disabilities?
    Mr. Lancaster. Thank you, Senator.
    I do think it will make a huge difference for us. And it is 
not going to do it immediately. It takes a long time to change 
attitudes and infrastructure. But it is already happening in a 
number of areas in the world.
    If you look at the European Union, they are making great 
advances in terms of transportation, architectural barriers, 
inclusive education, many things that we have been advocating 
for years.
    And it is the impotence of this Convention that has them 
really stepping up. Countries like--I keep referring to 
Vietnam, but it is a country that I have much experience with. 
Vietnam, I know Thailand, are places where they have already 
made significant changes to mass transit systems and are 
working on making more and the build environment.
    Again, inclusive education is another area where certain 
countries in Southeast Asia are now starting to make steps, 
because of this CRPD. And I think that that's a major, major 
reason why we should join in ratification of that, is to give 
further impetus to these changes, not only for our benefit, but 
for the rest of the world.
    And frankly, if I could just take a second here, Senator, 
to tell you, I am appalled with some of the conversation that 
has been going on here today, as a veteran, and as someone who 
volunteered, laid my life on the line for freedom, rights, 
dignity. And now to have this whole debate that we are not 
willing to espouse that to the rest of the world, that we are 
not willing to walk the talk in international circles, to step 
up in a forum to advocate these things and to say we are not 
afraid to sign this thing.
    We aspire to what is in this Convention. This is what we 
are about as a nation, including people, giving them freedom, 
giving them rights, giving them the opportunity to work, to 
learn, to participate.
    Isn't that what we're about? Isn't that what we want the 
rest of the world to be about? Well, if we aren't willing to 
say this is a good thing, and to say it formally, what are we 
about, really?
    Senator Shaheen. I couldn't agree more fully. Thank you 
very much, Mr. Lancaster.
    Thank you all for testifying. This hearing is closed.
    [Applause.]
    [Whereupon, at 12:35 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
    XI. Annex 2.--Material Submitted for the Record During Testimony

               Letter From the Jewish Disability Network


            Letter From the National Association of Councils
                     on Developmental Disabilities


            Letter From President George Herbert Walker Bush


  Supplemental List Provided by Eve Hill in Answer to a Question From 
                Senator James Risch During Her Testimony


                                 ______
                                 
                                 
                                 
                                 ______
                                 

   Letter to Senator John Kerry and Also Sent to Richard Lugar From 
                  Veterans and Military Organizations

                                                      May 30, 2012.
Hon. John Kerry,
Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations,
Washington, DC.
    Dear Chairman Kerry: We the undersigned veterans and military 
organizations are writing to urge the Senate Foreign Relations 
Committee to favorably report the Convention on the Rights of Persons 
with Disabilities (CRPD).
    The CRPD is important to veterans and servicemembers with 
disabilities because it embodies the principles of the Americans with 
Disabilities Act (ADA). Like the ADA, the CRPD supports equal treatment 
and non-discrimination in access to rehabilitation, employment and 
educational opportunities. We support the principles of the ADA because 
it promotes empowerment of our nation's veterans and servicemembers 
with disabilities by providing the opportunity to achieve independent 
living and inclusion into all aspects of society.
    As organizations that represent veterans and servicemembers and 
their families, we believe that the CRPD would remove barriers and 
allow American servicemembers and veterans with disabilities to work, 
serve, study, and live abroad. In part, barriers will be diminished due 
to changing attitudes around the world regarding people with 
disabilities. As a result of the changes occurring through the CRPD, 
servicemembers and veterans with disabilities will be able to continue 
leading active lives within the global community.
    The United States must ratify the CRPD to reinforce our leadership 
in the promotion of opportunities for veterans and servicemembers with 
disabilities in the world community. Our nation established its 
leadership on disability rights through the passage of the ADA. In 
order to continue that leadership, the United States must once again 
act to promote the rights of people with disabilities.
    We appreciate your leadership on this issue and urge swift 
ratification of the CRPD to ensure global disability rights. If you 
have any questions, please contact Heather Ansley, Vice President of 
Veterans Policy for VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal Association, 
at (202) 556-2076, ext. 7702 or by e-mail at [email protected]
            Sincerely,
                    AMVETS; Air Force Sergeants Association; Air Force 
                            Women Officers
                            Associated; American GI Forum; Association 
                            of the United States Navy; Blinded Veterans 
                            Association; Disabled American Veterans; 
                            Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; 
                            Jewish War Veterans; Military Officers 
                            Association of America; National 
                            Association for Black Veterans; National 
                            Guard Association of the United States; 
                            National Military Family Association; 
                            Paralyzed Veterans of America; The American 
                            Legion; Veterans for Common Sense; Veterans 
                            of Foreign Wars; Veterans of Modern 
                            Warfare; VetsFirst, a program of United 
                            Spinal Association; Vietnam Veterans of 
                            America; Wounded Warrior Project.
XII Annex 3.--Additional Questions and Answers Submitted for the Record

           Responses of Judith Heumann to Questions Submitted
                        by Senator John F. Kerry

    Question. Article 46, paragraph 1 of the Convention states that 
``[r]eservations incompatible with the object and purpose of the 
present Convention shall not be permitted.'' Does the administration 
believe that the three reservations it has proposed are compatible with 
the object and purpose of the Disabilities Convention?

    Answer. Yes. The United States has a comprehensive network of 
existing Federal and State disability laws and enforcement mechanisms. 
In the majority of cases, existing Federal and State law meet or exceed 
the requirements of the Convention. The proposed reservations make it 
clear that, in the narrow circumstances that federalism or private 
conduct concerns are implicated, the United States has limited its 
obligations on the international plane to those that can be implemented 
under existing law appropriate to our Federal structure.

    Question. The administration has proposed three reservations to the 
Convention. Article 46, paragraph 1 of the Convention states that 
``[r]eservations incompatible with the object and purpose of the 
present Convention shall not be permitted.''

   Have any Parties to the Convention joined the Convention 
        subject to reservations similar to those that the 
        administration has proposed? If so, please describe them.
   Have other Parties to the Convention lodged objections to 
        those reservations? If so, please describe how, if at all, this 
        impacts the legality under international law of the reservation 
        that the administration has proposed.

    Answer. Other States Parties have not taken reservations similar to 
those proposed by the administration.
                                 ______
                                 

 Responses of Eve Hill to Questions Submitted by Senator John F. Kerry

    Question. In his written testimony submitted to the Committee, Dr. 
Michael Farris asserts that if the United States were to become party 
to the Disabilities Convention, it would ``require[] radical changes to 
American law.'' Does the administration agree with this assertion?

    Answer. No. With the proposed reservations, understandings, and 
declaration, the United States would be able to implement its 
obligations under the Disabilities Convention using the existing laws, 
regulations, and Federal enforcement mechanisms that afford protection 
and guarantees of nondiscrimination to persons with disabilities. 
Therefore, no new legislation, regulation, or enforcement mechanisms 
would be required to ratify and implement the Disabilities Convention.

    Question. In his written testimony submitted to the Committee, Dr. 
Michael Farris asserts that, ``[t]oday, under the IDEA parents get to 
decide what they think is best for their child--including the right to 
walk away from government services and provide private or home 
education. Under the UNCRPD, that right is supplanted with the rule 
announced by Professor van Buren. Government officials have the 
authority to substitute their views for the views of parents as well as 
the views of the child as to what is best. If the parents think that 
private schools are best for their child, the UNCRPD gives the 
government the authority and the legal duty to override that judgment 
and keep the child in the government-approved program that the 
officials think is best for the child.'' Does the administration agree 
with this interpretation of the Convention?

    Answer. No. In light of the federalism and private conduct 
reservations and the nondiscrimination understanding, no changes to 
Federal, State or local law regarding the ability of parents in the 
United States to make decisions about how to raise and educate their 
children would be required as a result of ratification. Furthermore, 
the recommended understanding on economic, social, and cultural rights 
makes clear that in the context of the education of a disabled child, 
the obligation of the United States under the Convention with regard to 
consideration of the principle of ``best interests'' is limited to 
nondiscrimination.

    Question. In his written testimony submitted to the Committee, Dr. 
Michael Farris asserts that, ``[a]ny and all parental rights provisions 
in state education laws will be void by the direct application of 
Article 7 of this treaty. Government--not parents--has the authority to 
decide what is best for children.'' Does the administration agree with 
this assertion?

    Answer. No. Parental rights provisions in Federal and State 
education laws will not be voided by Article 7 of the Disabilities 
Convention. In light of the federalism and private conduct reservations 
and the nondiscrimination understanding, no changes to Federal, State 
or local law regarding the ability of parents in the United States to 
make decisions about how to raise and educate their children would be 
required as a result of ratification.

    Question. In his written testimony submitted to the Committee, Dr. 
Michael Farris asserts that, ``[e]ven with the presumption of the non-
self-executing nature of the treaty, if the Senate ratifies this 
treaty, Congress will have the duty to revise the IDEA to comply with 
the provisions of the UNCRPD. Therefore, unless we intend to breach our 
international legal obligations, Congress will be required to modify 
the IDEA to ensure that government decisionmakers, and not parents, 
have the final say as to what they believe is best for a child.'' Does 
the administration agree with this assertion?

    Answer. No. Ratification of the Disabilities Convention will not 
require Congress to modify existing law to provide that government 
decisionmakers, and not parents, have the final say regarding the best 
interests of a child. With the proposed package of reservations, 
understandings, and a declaration, ratification of the Disabilities 
Convention will not require any revision of the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act or any other U.S. law or regulation. In 
light of the federalism and private conduct reservations and the 
nondiscrimination understanding, no changes to Federal, State or local 
law regarding the ability of parents in the United States to make 
decisions about how to raise and educate their children would be 
required as a result of ratification.
    In addition, the non-self-executing declaration is not a 
``presumption'' but, as stated in the Secretary's Report (Treaty Doc. 
112-7, pp. 3 and 82), provides that the Convention would not be 
directly enforceable by U.S. courts or itself give rise to individually 
enforceable rights. The Supreme Court treated a non-self-executing 
declaration as dispositive in the case of Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 
U.S. 692, 728, 735 (2004).

    Question. In his written testimony submitted to the Committee, Dr. 
Michael Farris asserts that, ''Article 25(a) [of the Convention] 
commits the United States to providing free abortion services to 
persons with disabilities.'' Does the administration agree with this 
interpretation of the Convention?

    Answer. No. The Convention is a nondiscrimination instrument that 
simply provides what the Americans with Disabilities Act already 
requires in the United States: that any health care programs and 
benefits that are provided under domestic law, including those related 
to ``sexual and reproductive health,'' also be afforded to persons with 
disabilities on a nondiscriminatory basis. As the Secretary's report 
makes clear (Treaty Doc. 112-7 page 59-61), the Convention does not 
make any statement about abortion, does not create a right to abortion, 
and does not promote abortion as a method of family planning. The 
Convention leaves the matter to domestic law. Furthermore, the United 
States is not bound to implement the Convention through any particular 
program or funding mechanism.
                                 ______
                                 

Responses and Supplemental Responses of Judith Heumann and Eve Hill to 
            Questions Submitted by Senator Richard G. Lugar

    Question #1. If the United States became party to the Convention, 
would the Convention's obligations apply to conduct of the United 
States that occurs outside the territory of the United States?

    Answer. We do not read the Convention's obligations to apply to 
U.S. conduct outside the United States, except insofar as the 
Convention reaffirms such existing extraterritorial obligations as in 
Article 11. The Convention additionally envisions international 
cooperation measures under Article 32 (which addresses international 
cooperation programs intended to assist foreign governments and 
individuals with disabilities abroad, which the United States has 
already established through USAID and the State Department). U.S. 
ratification, moreover, would have positive effects outside the United 
States. For example, it would give the United States a critical tool in 
its bilateral and multilateral work to promote the rights of persons 
with disabilities around the world, and it would enable the United 
States to use treaty mechanisms (such as the Conference of States 
Parties) to exchange best practices and to guide other States Parties 
in their adoption of laws, policies, and practices to implement the 
Convention.

    Question #2. Apart from the provisions of Article 27 of the 
Convention, with respect to which the administration has proposed an 
understanding, would any aspect of the convention apply to military 
operations conducted by the United States? What is the assessment of 
the Department of Defense of the impact of any such application of the 
convention's provisions?

    Answer. Article 11 simply reaffirms existing obligations under 
international law to protect persons with disabilities.

    (Clarification): This is not a sufficient answer to Question 2. 
Please provide more detail including an assessment from the Department 
of Defense.
    (Supplemental Response): The Department of Defense concurs that 
application of the Convention's provisions, including Article 11, would 
not have an effect on the Department's military operations conducted 
outside the United States. Article 11 reaffirms existing obligations 
under international law to protect persons with disabilities.

    Question #3. Subsection (w) of the convention's preamble states 
``Realizing that the individual, having duties to other individuals and 
to the community to which he or she belongs, is under a responsibility 
to strive for the promotion and observance of the rights recognized in 
the International Bill of Human Rights.''

   What is the ``International Bill of Human Rights'' referred 
        to in this subsection?
   Does the administration believe that States have a legal 
        obligation to recognize the rights contained in the 
        ``International Bill of Human Rights?'' If so, what is the 
        source of this obligation?
   Does the administration interpret the convention to impose 
        legal obligations on individuals to strive for the promotion 
        and observance of the rights recognized in the International 
        Bill of Human Rights?
   Does the administration interpret any other body of 
        international law, including customary international law, to 
        impose legal obligations on individuals to strive for the 
        promotion and observance of the rights recognized in the 
        International Bill of Human Rights?

    Answer. The International Bill of Rights refers to the Universal 
Declaration of Human Rights (from which the quoted language in Question 
3 is drawn in part), which is not a legally binding instrument; the 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the 
United States is a party; and the International Covenant on Economic, 
Social and Cultural Rights, which the United States has signed but not 
ratified. States Parties to the legally binding instruments have an 
obligation to recognize the rights contained in such instruments, as 
ratified by them. Neither the Disabilities Convention nor any other 
body of international law imposes legal obligations on individuals to 
strive for the promotion and observance of the rights recognized in the 
International Bill of Human Rights.

    Question #4. What function do the ``General Principles'' contained 
in Article 3 of the convention serve? Do the provisions of Article 3 
give rise to any legal obligations independent of the convention's more 
specific provisions directed to the conduct of States Parties?

    Answer. As stated in the Secretary of State's Report (page 9 of 
Treaty Doc. 112-7), the General Principles in Article 3 set forth the 
overarching and animating objectives of the convention. Article 3 does 
not give rise to any legal obligations independent of the convention's 
more specific provisions directed to the conduct of States Parties.

    Question #5. Article 4 provides that ``States parties undertake to 
ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and 
fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without 
discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability.'' What are the 
particular ``human rights and fundamental freedoms'' to which the 
obligations in this article apply?

    Answer. Article 4 imposes an obligation of nondiscrimination on the 
basis of disability with respect to the human rights and fundamental 
freedoms set out in human rights treaties ratified by the United 
States. These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political 
Rights, the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial 
Discrimination, and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, 
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

    Question #6. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention describes a number of existing U.S. Government programs that 
promote the development and dissemination of mobility aids, devices, 
and assistive technologies. The Message indicates that these programs 
are consistent with the obligations contained in Articles 4(1)(f), (g), 
and (h) of the convention. Would the convention obligate the United 
States to continue these programs in their current form or prohibit the 
United States from eliminating or reducing funding for them?

    Answer. No. The United States is not bound to implement the 
convention through any particular program or funding mechanism.

    (Clarification): The above response was given for each of the 
listed questions (#s 6, 15, 22, 24, 27). More explanation is required 
for each of these questions.
    (Supplemental Response): As stated in the Secretary of State's 
Report (page 12 of Treaty Doc. 112-7), Article 4(1)(f), (g) and (h) are 
implemented through a variety of programs and mechanisms. Ratification 
of the Convention would not bind the United States to implement through 
these or any other particular program or funding mechanism. For 
example, a wide variety of U.S. programs provide funding for the 
acquisition of assistive devices. These programs include the Department 
of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Medicare and Medicaid programs, 
ED's Centers for Independent Living programs, and the Social Security 
Administration's SSI/SSDI programs, as well as vocational 
rehabilitation programs, educational programs under IDEA, and programs 
offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In addition, the 
HHS-backed Protection and Advocacy (P&A;) Assistive Technology program 
provides support and advocacy services to individuals with disabilities 
on assistive technology issues. Other key Federal agencies, including 
the EEOC and DOT, conduct extensive training efforts to diverse 
audiences. ED's NIDRR relies on its Disability and Business Technical 
Assistance Centers network to conduct technical assistance and operates 
the ADA National Network, a national network of 10 regional ADA 
Centers, to provide training, referrals, and resources to businesses, 
employers, government entities, and individuals with disabilities, as 
well as media and news reporters.

    Question #7. Under Article 4(2), States undertake to take measures 
``to the maximum extent of [their] available resources . . . with a 
view to achieving progressively the full realization of'' economic, 
social and cultural rights. Other articles of the convention address 
specific economic and social rights, including with respect to 
education, health, work and employment, adequate standard of living and 
social protection, and participation in cultural life, recreation, 
leisure and sport.
    The administration has proposed an understanding regarding these 
articles to the effect that the obligations of the United States in 
respect of such economic, social, and cultural rights ``are to prevent 
discrimination on the basis of disability in the provision of any such 
rights insofar as they are recognized and implemented under U.S. 
Federal Law.''

   What particular economic, social, and cultural rights does 
        the administration understand to be recognized and implemented 
        under U.S. Federal Law such that the United States would 
        encounter treaty obligations in relation to them if the 
        convention were ratified subject to the proposed understanding?
   To the extent that the United States does not recognize or 
        implement particular economic, social, or cultural rights 
        referred to in the convention, would the United States be 
        obligated to report to the Committee on the Rights of Persons 
        with Disabilities on its policies or practices with respect to 
        such nonrecognized rights?

    Answer. The obligations of the United States under the convention 
with respect to these rights would be limited to nondiscrimination, 
similar to the obligation already undertaken by the United States in 
Article 5(e) of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of 
Racial Discrimination (CERD). CERD Article 5(e) provides that States 
Parties undertake to ``eliminate racial discrimination . . . in the 
enjoyment of the following rights:

    (e) Economic, social and cultural rights, in particular
          (i) The right to work, to free choice of employment . . . ;
          (ii) The right to form and join trade unions;
          (iii) The right to housing;
          (iv) The right to public health, medical care, social 
        security and social services;
          (v) The right to education and training;
          (vi) The right to equal participation in cultural 
        activities;''

    The Disabilities Convention would create no new rights in the 
United States nor would it require the United States to recognize any 
new rights. Under the recommended nondiscrimination Understanding, 
ratification would not require any changes in the provision of, or 
access to, education, housing, health care, employment, social security 
and other social benefits, and cultural activities in the United 
States.
    With regard to reporting, Article 35 obliges a State Party to 
submit a comprehensive report on measures taken to give effect to its 
obligations under the convention. The United States would address its 
implementation of the convention's nondiscrimniation obligation in its 
report.

    Question #8. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention states that ``the United States has not yet become a party 
to the [Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights].'' Does the 
administration support U.S. accession to the Covenant on Economic, 
Social, and Cultural Rights?

    Answer. As indicated in the current Treaty Priority List, the 
administration does not seek action on the Covenant on Economic, Social 
and Cultural Rights at this time.

    (Clarification): What is the administration's position on the 
Covenant, and will the administration use the Disabilities Convention 
to bolster the case for becoming a party to any treaty or agreement 
referenced therein to which the United States is currently not a party?
    (Supplemental Response): The administration does not seek Senate 
action on the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural 
Rights. As to treaties which the United States has not ratified, the 
administration assesses each treaty on its own merits, and lists in its 
Treaty Priority List those treaties for which the Department seeks 
action at this time. Because the administration seeks the Senate's 
advice and consent to ratification of treaties on a case-by-case basis, 
ratification of the Disabilities Convention does not bolster the case 
for ratification of other treaties.

    Question #9. Article 4(3) provides that ``States Parties shall 
closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, 
including children with disabilities, through their representative 
organizations'' in the development and implementation of laws and 
policies to implement the convention and in other decisionmaking 
processes concerning issues related to persons with disabilities.

   (9a) Would this provision apply to Congress so as to require 
        it to follow particular procedures when drafting and acting on 
        legislation related to persons with disabilities?

    Answer. No. Ratification of the convention will not require 
Congress to alter its procedures when drafting and acting on 
legislation related to persons with disabilities. The United States 
democratic legislative process affords disability rights organizations, 
family members, concerned citizens and persons with disabilities an 
opportunity to make their voices heard at the Federal, State, and local 
levels of government throughout the legislative process.

   (9b) Is the United States currently a party to any treaty 
        that contains similar obligations to consult with specific 
        groups when making laws, policies, or other governmental 
        decisions?

    Answer. Yes. The United States has become a party to agreements 
that require consultations with or participation by stakeholders. For 
example, the United States is a party to the United Nations Convention 
to Combat Desertification. Article 5 of this advice and consent treaty 
provides, in part:

          In addition to their obligations pursuant to article 4, 
        affected country Parties [which include the United States] 
        undertake to:
          * * * * *
          (d) promote awareness and facilitate the participation of 
        local populations, particularly women and youth, with the 
        support of nongovernmental organizations, in efforts to combat 
        desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. . . .

    The International Convention Relating To Intervention On The High 
Seas In Cases Of Oil Pollution Casualties, which concerns oil spills 
from ships, provides another example. Article I of this advice and 
consent treaty provides that States Parties may take necessary measures 
on the high seas ``to prevent, mitigate or eliminate grave and imminent 
danger to their coastline or related interests from pollution or threat 
of pollution of the sea by oil, following upon a maritime casualty or 
acts related to such a casualty, which may reasonably be expected to 
result in major harmful consequences.'' Article III then provides, in 
part:

          (b) the coastal State shall notify without delay the proposed 
        measures to any persons physical or corporate known to the 
        coastal State, or made known to it during the consultations, to 
        have interests which can reasonably be expected to be affected 
        by those measures. The coastal State shall take into account 
        any views they may submit. . . .

    In addition, free trade agreements, which are approved by the 
Congress, and bilateral investment treaties, which are advice and 
consent treaties, generally contain transparency provisions that call 
on States Parties to provide interested persons a reasonable 
opportunity to comment on proposed laws, regulations, procedures and 
administrative rulings.
    Moreover, as described in the Secretary's report transmitted to the 
Senate with the convention, the U.S. democratic legislative process, 
Americans with Disabilities Act requirements on public organizations, 
and the public notice and comment process for regulations would all 
provide for U.S. compliance with Article 4(3) of the convention without 
the need to alter U.S. laws, regulations or practice.

    Question #10. The administration has proposed a reservation to the 
convention indicating that, to the extent that U.S. State and local 
governments exercise jurisdiction over matters governed by the 
convention, the obligations of the United States under the convention 
would be limited to ``the Federal Government's taking measures 
appropriate to the Federal system, which may include enforcement action 
against State and local actions that are inconsistent with the 
Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or other Federal 
laws, with the objective of fully implementing the convention.''
    The President's Message transmitting the convention observes that, 
in some areas covered by the convention that are governed by U.S. State 
and local law, ``some State and local standards are less vigorous than 
the convention would require.''

   (10a) Please describe the particular instances in which the 
        administration believes that relevant State and local standards 
        ``are less rigorous than the convention would require.''

    Answer. This answer responds to Question 10 as well as Questions 
18, 20, 23, 25, and 26.
    The areas in which State and local standards may be less rigorous 
than the convention's requirements are narrow. The administration's 
principal questions regarding State and local standards relate to 
Articles 12, regarding guardianship, and Article 14, regarding civil 
commitment. See Treaty Doc. 112.7 at pages 31 through 34 (regarding 
Article 12) and pages 36 through 39 (regarding Article 14). The 
Secretary's Report also identifies questions regarding Article 23 on 
respect for home and the family, including those arising from 
guardianship determinations. See id., at pages 53 through 55 (regarding 
Article 23). With respect to Article 19 on living independently and 
being included in the community and Article 24 on education, the 
administration did not specify in the Secretary's Report concerns 
arising regarding State or local laws because the requirements of 
Federal law on nondiscrimination under the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act and the administration's Olmstead v. L.C., 
527 U.S. 581 (1999) enforcement largely obviate resort to State law for 
convention implementation.

   (10b) With respect to the instances identified in response 
        to the question above, please describe the measures the 
        administration would intend to take consistent with the 
        proposed federalism reservation to give effect to the 
        convention's requirements.

    Answer. The administration's questions about State and local law 
being less rigorous than the convention's requirements have arisen with 
respect to narrow areas of law and in limited circumstances. In most 
cases, Federal law, which will implement the requirements of the 
Disabilities Convention if ratified, requires State and local 
governments to take remedial measure to bring their laws into 
compliance with Federal law, such as the Federal Government's efforts 
under Olmstead. The administration proposes a federalism reservation to 
address the small gaps in implementation at the State and local level 
that are currently beyond the reach of Federal enforcement. The 
federalism reservation protects our Federal system, ensuring that the 
Federal Government is not required to adopt any new laws or engage in 
any new enforcement efforts to fill these gaps.

    Question #11. Upon ratifying the convention, El Salvador made the 
following reservation: ``The Government of the Republic of El Salvador 
signs the present Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 
and the Optional Protocol thereto, adopted by the United Nations 
General Assembly on 13 December 2006, to the extent that its provisions 
do not prejudice or violate the provisions of any of the precepts, 
principles and norms enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of 
El Salvador, particularly in its enumeration of principles.''
    Several other parties to the convention have objected to El 
Salvador's reservation as being inconsistent with the object and 
purpose of the convention.

   (11a) What is El Salvador's status as a party to the 
        convention in light of its reservation and the objections to 
        it?

    Answer. El Salvador is a party to the convention and has treaty 
relations with all of the States Parties to the convention. Although 
some States Parties to the convention have objected to El Salvador's 
reservation, none of these States Parties has declined to enter into 
treaty relations with El Salvador.

   (11b) Does the administration regard El Salvador's 
        reservation as inconsistent with the convention's object and 
        purpose, or with international law regarding reservations to 
        treaties?

    Answer. International law provides that States Parties may object 
to other Parties' reservations to treaties, including on the basis that 
such reservations are incompatible with the object and purpose of the 
treaty. The convention itself provides in Article 46(1) that 
reservations incompatible with the object and purpose of the convention 
are not permitted. The convention also provides that reservations may 
be withdrawn at any time. Because the United States is not a party, we 
have not taken a position on El Salvador's reservation. If the Senate 
grants its advice and consent to ratification, the United States will 
have an opportunity to do so upon ratification.

    Question #12. Article 6(1) provides that States shall take measures 
to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by women and girls with 
disabilities ``of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.'' What are 
the particular ``human rights and fundamental freedoms'' to which the 
obligations in this article apply?

    Answer. Article 6(1) prohibits discrimination against women and 
girls with a disability with respect to the human rights and 
fundamental freedoms set out in human rights treaties ratified by a 
State Party. For the United States, these include the International 
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture, 
and the Race Convention.

    Question #13. Article 7(2) provides that ``In all actions 
concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child 
shall be a primary consideration.''
    In discussing the implementation of this provision, the President's 
Message transmitting the convention observes that ``Titles II and III 
of the ADA protect children with disabilities from discrimination by 
public entities and public accommodations,'' and describes enforcement 
of these laws by the Department of Justice.

   Does the administration interpret the reference in Article 
        7(2) to ``all actions concerning children'' as applying only to 
        situations involving discrimination? If not, please indicate in 
        what other contexts Article 7(2)'s requirements have potential 
        application and describe the measures the administration 
        believes would be necessary to give effect to Article 7(2) in 
        such contexts.

    Answer. Any United States obligation under Article 7(2) would be 
limited to nondiscrimination, including with regard to education, where 
nondiscrimination is guaranteed under U.S. law by the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The 
recommended Understanding on economic, social, and cultural rights 
makes clear that in the context of the education of a disabled child, 
the obligation of the United States under the convention with regard to 
consideration of the principle of ``best interests'' is limited to 
nondiscrimination.

    (Clarification): Please provide more information in response to 
this question.
    (Supplemental Response): In light of the proposed federalism and 
private conduct reservations and the nondiscrimination understanding, 
no changes to Federal, State or local law regarding the ability of 
parents in the United States to make decisions about how to raise and 
educate their children would be required as a result of ratification. 
With the proposed RUD package, ratification of the Disabilities 
Convention will not require any revision of the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act or any other U.S. law or regulation. In 
particular, ratification will not require Congress to modify existing 
law to affect consideration of the principle of best interests or to 
provide that government decisionmakers, and not parents, have the final 
say regarding the best interests of a child. In short, existing Federal 
State and local law provide adequate protection to the interest of 
parents to do what they think is best for their children and the 
Convention will not disturb that complex of laws.

    Question #14. Article 7(3) provides that ``States Parties shall 
ensure that children with disabilities have the right to express their 
views freely on all matters affecting them, their views being given due 
weight in accordance with their age and maturity, on an equal basis 
with other children.''

   What actor or actors are responsible for determining the 
        weight to be given to the views of children with disabilities 
        as described in Article 7(3)?

    Answer. In light of the proposed federalism and private conduct 
reservations, to the extent that under domestic law actors determining 
the weight of views of children with disabilities include State or 
local governments or parents, there would be no change to Federal, 
State or local law as a result of ratification.

    Question #15. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention describes a number of existing U.S. Government programs that 
promote the design, development, and distribution of accessible 
information and communications technologies and systems. The Message 
indicates that these programs are consistent with the obligations 
contained in Article 9(2)(h) of the convention. Would the convention 
obligate the United States to continue these programs in their current 
form or prohibit the United States from eliminating or reducing funding 
for them?

    Answer. No. The United States is not bound to implement the 
convention through any particular program or funding mechanism.

    (Supplemental Response): As stated in the Secretary of State's 
Report (page 25 of Treaty Doc. 112-7), Article 9(2)(h) is implemented 
through a variety of programs and mechanisms. Ratification of the 
Convention would not bind the United States to implement through these 
or any other particular program or funding mechanism. For example, with 
respect to promoting access to, and development of, new information and 
technologies, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires 
Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology 
accessible to persons with disabilities, has resulted in the 
development of new technologies for accessible information. The Access 
Board has issued ``Electronic and Information Technology Standards,'' 
see 39 C.F.R. Sec. Pt. 1194. The ATA targeted the removal of 
environmental barriers and increased access to assistive and 
universally designed technologies. See 29 U.S.C. Sec. 3001(b)(1). Other 
government initiatives, e.g., the Interagency Council on Disability-
Related Statistics, promote public-private partnerships and research 
opportunities to develop and make available assistive technologies. The 
Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 
1996, 47 U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 251(a)(2) and 255, requires manufacturers of 
telecommunications equipment and providers of telecommunications 
services to ensure that such equipment and services are accessible to 
and usable by persons with disabilities, if readily achievable. The FCC 
oversees five programs that help to ensure access to assistive 
technology, including: closed captioning of video programming; access 
to emergency information in video programming; Telecommunications Relay 
Services; access to telecommunications services and equipment; and 
hearing aid compatibility for telephones.

    Question #16. Article 11 provides that ``States Parties shall take, 
in accordance with their obligations under international law, including 
international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all 
necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with 
disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed 
conflict . . . ''

   Does the administration interpret the convention to apply to 
        the conduct of U.S. military personnel participating in armed 
        conflict in Afghanistan or elsewhere? If not, why not?

    Answer. Article 11 reaffirms existing obligations of States Parties 
under international law. In this regard, Article 11 is also consistent 
with DOD Directive 2311.01E, The Department of Defense Law of War 
Program, which requires that members of DOD components comply with the 
law of war during all armed conflict, and in all other military 
operations.

    Question #17. Article 12(4) provides that ``States Parties shall 
ensure that all measures that relate to the exercise of legal capacity 
provide for appropriate and effective safeguards to prevent abuse in 
accordance with international human rights law.''

   What are the relevant rules of ``international human rights 
        law'' referred to in Article 12(4) and what is the source of 
        these rules?

    Answer. For the United States, the International Covenant on Civil 
and Political Rights would be relevant as well as the Convention 
Against Torture.

    Question #18. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention states in connection with its discussion of Article 12 that 
``many State constitutions and statutory provisions continue to limit 
the full exercise of civil and political rights of persons deemed 
incompetent.''

   (18a) Please identify any State constitution or statutory 
        provisions in this regard that the administration believes 
        would be inconsistent with the obligations contained in the 
        convention.

    Answer. The response to Question 10 also applies to Question 18.
    The administration closely studied measures of implementation of 
the Disabilities Convention, and identified that its principal 
questions regarding State and local compliance relate to Articles 12, 
regarding guardianship, and Article 14, regarding civil commitment. The 
Secretary's Report identifies specific concerns regarding State law 
arising under those Articles, including discussion of particular 
States. See Treaty Doc. 112.7 at pages 31 through 34 (regarding Article 
12) and pages 36 through 39 (regarding Article 14). The Secretary's 
Report also identifies concerns regarding Article 23 on Respect for 
home and the family, including those arising from guardianship 
determinations. See id., at pages 53 through 55 (regarding Article 23). 
With respect to Article 19 on Living independently and being included 
in the community and Article 24 on Education, the administration did 
not specify in the Secretary's Report concerns arising regarding State 
or local laws because the requirements of Federal law on 
nondiscrimination under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 
and the administration's Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999) 
enforcement largely obviate resort to State law for convention 
implementation.

   (18b) With respect to the provisions identified in response 
        to the question above, please describe the measures the 
        administration would intend to take consistent with the 
        proposed federalism reservation to give effect to the 
        convention's requirements.

    Answer. The administration's concerns about State and local law 
being inconsistent with the obligations in the convention's have arisen 
with respect to narrow areas of law and in limited circumstances. In 
most cases, Federal law, which will implement the requirements of the 
Disabilities Convention if ratified, requires State and local 
governments to take remedial measure to bring their laws into 
compliance with Federal law, such as the Federal Government's efforts 
under Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999). The administration 
proposes a federalism reservation to address the small gaps in 
implementation at the State and local level that are currently beyond 
the reach of Federal enforcement. The federalism reservation protects 
our Federal system, ensuring that the Federal Government is not 
required to adopt any new laws or engage in any new enforcement efforts 
to fill these gaps.

    Question #19. Article 14(2) provides that ``States Parties shall 
ensure that if persons with disabilities are deprived of the liberty 
through any process, they are, on an equal basis with others, entitled 
to guarantees in accordance with international human rights law and 
shall be treated in compliance with the objectives and principles of 
the present convention, including by provision of reasonable 
accommodation.'' What are the relevant rules of ``international human 
rights law'' referred to in Article 14(2) and what is the source of 
these rules?

    Answer. The relevant rules of international human rights law are 
contained in the treaties on human rights ratified by the State Party. 
For the United States, the provisions of the International Covenant on 
Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture would be 
relevant.

    Question #20. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention states in connection with its discussion of Article 14 that 
``Although State laws generally have adopted heightened due process 
protections for persons with disabilities facing deprivations of their 
liberty, gaps remain.''

   (20a) Please identify any State laws in this regard that the 
        administration believes would be inconsistent with the 
        obligations contained in the convention.

    Answer. The response to Question 18 also applies to Question 20.
    The administration closely studied measures of implementation of 
the Disabilities Convention, and identified that its principal 
questions regarding State and local compliance relate to Articles 12, 
regarding guardianship, and Article 14, regarding civil commitment. The 
Secretary's Report identifies specific questions regarding State law 
arising under those Articles, including discussion of particular 
States. See Treaty Doc. 112.7 at pages 31 through 34 (regarding Article 
12) and pages 36 through 39 (regarding Article 14). The Secretary's 
Report also identifies questions regarding Article 23 on respect for 
home and the family, including those arising from guardianship 
determinations. See id., at pages 53 through 55 (regarding Article 23). 
With respect to Article 19 on living independently and being included 
in the community and Article 24 on education, the administration did 
not specify in the Secretary's Report questions arising regarding State 
or local laws because the requirements of Federal law on 
nondiscrimination under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 
and the Administration's Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999) 
enforcement largely obviate resort to State law for convention 
implementation.

   (20b) With respect to the laws identified in response to the 
        question above, please describe the measures the administration 
        would intend to take consistent with the proposed federalism 
        reservation to give effect to the convention's requirements.

    Answer. The administration's questions about State and local law 
being inconsistent with the obligations in the convention have arisen 
with respect to narrow areas of law and in limited circumstances. In 
most cases, Federal law, which will implement the requirements of the 
Disabilities Convention if ratified, requires State and local 
governments to take remedial measure to bring their laws into 
compliance with Federal law, such as the Federal Government's efforts 
under Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999). The administration 
proposes a federalism reservation to address the small gaps in 
implementation at the State and local level that are currently beyond 
the reach of Federal enforcement. The federalism reservation protects 
our Federal system, ensuring that the Federal Government is not 
required to adopt any new laws or engage in any new enforcement efforts 
to fill these gaps.

    Question #21. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention proposes a reservation to Article 15, which addresses 
freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or 
punishment. The proposed reservation would make the obligations of the 
United States under Article 15 subject to the same reservations and 
understandings that apply for the United States with respect to 
provisions of the Convention Against Torture and the International 
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that contain comparable 
obligations.

   Apart from the substantive obligations under Article 15 
        addressed by the administration's proposed understanding, will 
        the United States incur obligations to report on its compliance 
        with Article 15 to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with 
        Disabilities separately from reporting it currently makes to 
        committees under the Convention Against Torture and the 
        International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?

    Answer. The United States would address Article 15 in its report 
submitted under Article 35 of the Disabilities Convention, and would 
expect that any discussion of Article 15 in that report would rely 
heavily on relevant sections of any recent reports submitted pursuant 
to the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on 
Civil and Political Rights.

    Question #22. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention describes a number of existing U.S. Government programs that 
monitor facilities and programs designed to serve persons with 
disabilities with a view to preventing exploitation, violence, or 
abuse. The Message indicates that these programs are consistent with 
the obligations contained in Article 16(3) of the convention.

   Would the convention obligate the United States to continue 
        these programs in their current form or prohibit the United 
        States from eliminating or reducing funding for them?

    Answer. No. The United States is not bound to implement the 
convention through any particular program or funding mechanism.

    (Supplemental Response): As stated in the Secretary of State's 
Report (page 42 of Treaty Doc. 112-7), Article 16(3) is implemented 
through a variety of programs and mechanisms. Ratification of the 
Convention would not bind the United States to implement through these 
or any other particular program or funding mechanism. For example, 
Article 16(3) requires effective monitoring by independent authorities 
to prevent freedom from exploitation, violence, and abuse. DOJ's 
enforcement of CRIPA allows it to independently monitor persons with 
disabilities held in a wide variety of institutional settings, identify 
any ongoing abuses, and mandate corrective measures to address any 
abuse, exploitation, or violence. Additionally, Protection and Advocacy 
(P&A;) systems in each state are created by Federal law to monitor, 
review, and protect rights of individuals to be free from exploitation, 
violence, and abuse. HHS funds and monitors this comprehensive network 
of Protection and Advocacy programs in each state that are authorized 
to investigate incidents of abuse and neglect of persons with 
disabilities and follow up reports of incidents or investigate if there 
is probable cause to believe that such incidents have occurred. HHS's 
Administration on Aging operates a number of Vulnerable Elder Rights 
Programs that provide important protections against exploitation and 
abuse of seniors, including those with disabilities. HHS's Substance 
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has initiated 
efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate seclusion and restraint 
procedures in behavioral health care settings through evaluation of 
effective reduction practices, planning and implementation grants, and 
policy development.

    Question #23. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention states in connection with its discussion of Article 19 that 
``although individual States and localities are in varying degrees of 
compliance with the array of Federal laws that address Article 19, 
there continues to be progress and refinement in approaches to achieve 
full compliance, and DOJ along with other Federal agencies remain 
vigilant in ensuring such compliance.''

   (23a) Please identify any State or local practices in this 
        regard that the administration believes would be inconsistent 
        with the obligations contained in the convention.

    Answer. The response to Question 18 also applies to Question 23.
    The administration closely studied measures of implementation of 
the Disabilities Convention, and identified that its principal 
questions regarding State and local compliance relate to Articles 12, 
regarding guardianship, and Article 14, regarding civil commitment. The 
Secretary's Report identifies specific concerns regarding State law 
arising under those Articles, including discussion of particular 
States. See Treaty Doc. 112.7 at pages 31 through 34 (regarding Article 
12) and pages 36 through 39 (regarding Article 14). The Secretary's 
Report also identifies questions regarding Article 23 on respect for 
home and the family, including those arising from guardianship 
determinations. See id., at pages 53 through 55 (regarding Article 23). 
With respect to Article 19 on living independently and being included 
in the community and Article 24 on education, the administration did 
not specify in the Secretary's Report questions arising regarding State 
or local laws because the requirements of Federal law on 
nondiscrimination under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 
and the administration's Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999) 
enforcement largely obviate resort to State law for convention 
implementation.

   (23b) With respect to the laws identified in response to the 
        question above, please describe the measures the administration 
        would intend to take consistent with the proposed federalism 
        reservation to give effect to the convention's requirements.

    Answer. The administration's questions about State and local law 
being inconsistent with the obligations contained in the convention 
have arisen with respect to narrow areas of law and in limited 
circumstances. In most cases, Federal law, which will implement the 
requirements of the Disabilities Convention if ratified, requires State 
and local governments to take remedial measure to bring their laws into 
compliance with Federal law, such as the Federal Government's efforts 
under Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999). The administration 
proposes a federalism reservation to address the small gaps in 
implementation at the State and local level that are currently beyond 
the reach of Federal enforcement. The federalism reservation protects 
our Federal system, ensuring that the Federal Government is not 
required to adopt any new laws or engage in any new enforcement efforts 
to fill these gaps.

    Question #24. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention describes a number of existing U.S. Government programs that 
provide funding for the acquisition of assistive devices. The Message 
indicates that these programs would give effect to the obligations 
contained in Article 20 of the convention.

   Would the convention obligate the United States to continue 
        these programs in their current form or prohibit the United 
        States from eliminating or reducing funding for them?

    Answer. No. The United States is not bound to implement the 
convention through any particular program or funding mechanism.

    (Supplemental Response): As stated in the Secretary of State's 
Report (page 49 of Treaty Doc. 112-7), Article 20 is implemented 
through a variety of programs and mechanisms. Ratification of the 
Convention would not bind the United States to implement through these 
or any other particular program or funding mechanism. For example, a 
wide variety of U.S. programs provide funding for the acquisition of 
assistive devices. These programs include Federal Medicaid, Medicare, 
and Social Security SSI/SSDI programs, vocational rehabilitation 
programs, which provide a variety of services and devices for the 
purpose of assisting adults with disabilities to become independently 
employed, and programs under IDEA, which require school districts to 
provide assistive technology in the context of ensuring that a child 
with disabilities receives a free appropriate public education, 
regardless of ability. In addition, the United States has many programs 
that promote the development and dissemination of mobility aids, 
devices, and assistive technologies. For example, the National 
Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), a Federal 
agency part of ED, was established to generate, disseminate, and 
promote new knowledge to improve the options available to disabled 
persons.

    Question #25. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention observes that many of the issues addressed by Article 23 of 
the convention (regarding respect for the home and family) are governed 
by U.S. State law. The message does not clearly indicate, however, 
whether the administration believes that relevant U.S. State laws are 
in full compliance with the requirements of Article 23.

   (25a) Please identify any State laws in this regard that the 
        administration believes would be inconsistent with the 
        obligations contained in the convention.

    Answer. The response to Question 18 also applies to Question 25.
    The administration closely studied measures of implementation of 
the Disabilities Convention, and identified that its principal 
questions regarding State and local compliance relate to Articles 12, 
regarding guardianship, and Article 14, regarding civil commitment. The 
Secretary's Report identifies specific questions regarding State law 
arising under those Articles, including discussion of particular 
States. See Treaty Doc. 112.7 at pages 31 through 34 (regarding Article 
12) and pages 36 through 39 (regarding Article 14). The Secretary's 
Report also identifies questions regarding Article 23 on respect for 
home and the family, including those arising from guardianship 
determinations. See id., at pages 53 through 55 (regarding Article 23). 
With respect to Article 19 on living independently and being included 
in the community and Article 24 on education, the administration did 
not specify in the Secretary's Report concerns arising regarding State 
or local laws because the requirements of Federal law on 
nondiscrimination under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 
and the administration's Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999) 
enforcement largely obviate resort to State law for convention 
implementation.

   (25b) With respect to the laws identified in response to the 
        question above, please describe the measures the administration 
        would intend to take consistent with the proposed federalism 
        reservation to give effect to the convention's requirements.

    Answer. The administration's questions about State and local law 
being inconsistent with the obligations contained in the convention 
have arisen with respect to narrow areas of law and in limited 
circumstances. In most cases, Federal law, which will implement the 
requirements of the Disabilities Convention if ratified, requires State 
and local governments to take remedial measure to bring their laws into 
compliance with Federal law, such as the Federal Government's efforts 
under Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999). The administration 
proposes a federalism reservation to address the small gaps in 
implementation at the State and local level that are currently beyond 
the reach of Federal enforcement. The federalism reservation protects 
our Federal system, ensuring that the Federal Government is not 
required to adopt any new laws or engage in any new enforcement efforts 
to fill these gaps.

    Question #26. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention observes that education in the United States is provided 
largely by State and local governments. The message does not clearly 
indicate, however, whether the administration believes that relevant 
U.S. State and local laws and policies are in full compliance with the 
requirements of Article 24 of the convention, regarding education.

   (26a) Please identify any State or local laws or policies in 
        this regard that the administration believes would be 
        inconsistent with the obligations contained in the convention.

    Answer. The response to Question 18 also applies to Question 26.
    The administration closely studied measures of implementation of 
the Disabilities Convention, and identified that its principal 
questions regarding State and local compliance relate to Articles 12, 
regarding guardianship, and Article 14, regarding civil commitment. The 
Secretary's Report identifies specific questions regarding State law 
arising under those Articles, including discussion of particular 
States. See Treaty Doc. 112.7 at pages 31 through 34 (regarding Article 
12) and pages 36 through 39 (regarding Article 14). The Secretary's 
Report also identifies questions regarding Article 23 on respect for 
home and the family, including those arising from guardianship 
determinations. See id., at pages 53 through 55 (regarding Article 23). 
With respect to Article 19 on living independently and being included 
in the community and Article 24 on education, the administration did 
not specify in the Secretary's Report concerns arising regarding State 
or local laws because the requirements of federal law on 
nondiscrimination under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 
and the administration's Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999) 
enforcement largely obviate resort to State law for convention 
implementation.

   (26b) With respect to the laws identified in response to the 
        question above, please describe the measures the administration 
        would intend to take consistent with the proposed federalism 
        reservation to give effect to the convention's requirements.

    Answer. The administration's questions about State and local law 
being inconsistent with the obligations contained in the convention 
have arisen with respect to narrow areas of law and in limited 
circumstances. In most cases, Federal law, which will implement the 
requirements of the Disabilities Convention if ratified, requires State 
and local governments to take remedial measure to bring their laws into 
compliance with Federal law, such as the Federal Government's efforts 
under Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999). The administration 
proposes a federalism reservation to address the small gaps in 
implementation at the State and local level that are currently beyond 
the reach of Federal enforcement. The federalism reservation protects 
our Federal system, ensuring that the Federal Government is not 
required to adopt any new laws or engage in any new enforcement efforts 
to fill these gaps.

    Question #27. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention 
describes a number of existing U.S. Government programs that provide 
funding for habilitation and rehabilitation services and programs for 
persons with disabilities. The Message indicates that these programs 
would give effect to the obligations contained in Article 26 of the 
convention.

   Would the convention obligate the United States to continue 
        these programs in their current form or prohibit the United 
        States from eliminating or reducing funding for them?

    Answer. No. The United States is not bound to implement the 
convention through any particular funding program.

    (Supplemental Response): As stated in the Secretary of State's 
Report (page 63 of Treaty Doc. 112-7), Article 26 is implemented 
through a variety of programs and mechanisms. Ratification of the 
Convention would not bind the United States to implement through these 
or any other particular program or funding mechanism. For example, the 
United States has a comprehensive set of habilitation and 
rehabilitation programs, including the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) 
State Grants, State Independent Living (IL) Services, Centers for 
Independent Living (CIL), and Independent Living Services for Older 
Individuals Who are Blind (OIB) programs, which are authorized under 
Titles I and VII of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 720 et seq., 
Sec. 796 et seq. The primary purpose of the VR, IL, CIL, and OIB 
programs is to provide the services necessary to enable individuals 
with disabilities, especially those with the most significant 
disabilities, to become self-sufficient and independent in education, 
employment, and community settings.

    Question #28. The Message from the President transmitting the 
convention states that the ``conclusions and recommendations of the 
Committee [on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] with regard to a 
State Party's treaty report, General Comments, Reports, and other 
documents of the Committee on Disabilities are not binding on the 
States Parties, and the Committee has no authority to require or compel 
action by the United States under the convention. The United States may 
accord to Committee views and reports and to other Committee documents 
the weight that the United States considers appropriate.''
    In its 2010 judgment in the Case Concerning Ahmadou Sadio Diallo 
(Republic of Guinea v. Democratic Republic of the Congo), the 
International Court of Justice addressed the weight to be given to the 
interpretation of a human rights treaty issued by the Committee 
established pursuant to that treaty.
    In explaining its interpretation of the International Covenant on 
Civil and Political Rights in that case, the Court stated:

          ``66. The interpretation above is fully corroborated by the 
        jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee established by the 
        Covenant to ensure compliance with that instrument by the 
        States parties (see for example, in this respect, Maroufidou v. 
        Sweden, No. 58/1979, para. 9.3; Human Rights Committee, General 
        Comment No. 15: The position of aliens under the Covenant).
          Since it was created, the Human Rights Committee has built up 
        a considerable body of interpretative case law, in particular 
        through its findings in response to the individual 
        communications which may be submitted to it in respect of 
        States Parties to the first Optional Protocol, and in the form 
        of its ``General Comments.''
          Although the Court is in no way obliged, in the exercise of 
        its judicial functions, to model its own interpretation of the 
        Covenant on that of the Committee, it believes that it should 
        ascribe great weight to the interpretation adopted by this 
        independent body that was established specifically to supervise 
        the application of that treaty. The point here is to achieve 
        the necessary clarity and the essential consistency of 
        international law, as well as legal security, to which both the 
        individuals with guaranteed rights and the States obliged to 
        comply with treaty obligations are entitled.''

   (a) Does the administration believe that, as a matter of 
        international law, States Parties to the convention on the 
        Rights of Persons with Disabilities must accord great weight to 
        the interpretations of the convention issued by the Committee 
        on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their own 
        interpretation and application of the convention?
   (b) Does the administration believe that, as a matter of 
        international law, States Parties to the convention on the 
        Rights of Persons with Disabilities are obligated to conform 
        their interpretations of the convention to those issued by the 
        Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
   (c) Does the administration believe that individuals with 
        rights guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of Persons 
        with Disabilities are entitled as a matter of international law 
        to ``essential consistency'' in the convention's application by 
        all States Parties?
   (d) Does the administration believe that States Parties to 
        the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are 
        entitled as a matter of international law to ``essential 
        consistency'' in the convention's application by all other 
        States Parties?

    Answer. The administration does not believe that the decision of 
the International Court of Justice requires the United States to accord 
``great weight'' to the Committee's interpretations and views, or to 
conform its interpretations of the convention to those of the 
Committee. The cited decision of the International Court of Justice is 
not binding on the United States, which was not a party to the 
proceeding. Nor is the United States subject to the jurisdiction of the 
Court with regard to interpretation or application of the convention. 
Further, while consistency in application of a convention may be 
desirable, the administration does not believe that either States 
Parties or individuals have a legal right to ``essential consistency'' 
in the application of the convention's provisions by other or all 
States Parties.

    Question #29. Article 38(a) of the convention provides that the 
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities may invite the 
specialized agencies of the United Nations and other competent bodies 
as it may consider appropriate to provide expert advice on the 
implementation of the convention in areas falling within the scope of 
their respective mandates. What does the administration consider to be 
the appropriate scope for participation by U.N. specialized agencies in 
matters relating to the interpretation and application of the 
convention by States Parties?

    Answer. By the terms of Article 38 of the convention, U.N. 
specialized agencies and other competent bodies may provide expert 
advice and submit reports on implementation of the convention in areas 
falling within the scope of their mandates and activities. As with the 
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, such agencies or 
bodies have no authority to require or compel action by the United 
States under the convention. The United States may accord to such 
advice or reports the weight that the United States considers 
appropriate.
                                 ______
                                 

            Response of Judith Heumann to Question Submitted
                    by Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

    Question. The United States has been a global leader in promoting 
disability rights, and in sharing our expertise gained over decades of 
pioneering work in improving the lives of disabled persons. Given our 
already prominent position in this field, why is it necessary to become 
a party to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities in order to improve disability rights throughout the 
world?

    Answer. With our extensive domestic experience, the United States 
is uniquely positioned to help interested countries understand how to 
effectively comply with their obligations under the Convention and 
improve their domestic protections for persons with disabilities. 
However, the fact that we have yet to ratify the Disabilities 
Convention is frequently raised by foreign officials in bilateral 
discussions as a reason to question the legitimacy of our guidance. 
This undermines our efforts to promote disability rights abroad and 
deflects from what should be center stage: how other nations' records 
of promoting disability rights could be improved.
    Ratification of the Convention is increasingly becoming an 
important factor in the U.S. Government's ability to have meaningful 
international engagement to promote the rights of persons with 
disabilities. At present we are only able to act as observers at the 
Disabilities Convention Conference of States Parties. This treaty 
mechanism offers the most effective vehicle to influence the 116 States 
Parties to improve their protection of disabled people, including 
disabled Americans abroad. Such an approach is also much more efficient 
than pursuing 116 or more separate bilateral arrangements. Our 
inability to participate as a States Party severely curtails our 
ability to advance U.S. interests.
    Additionally, without ratification we cannot participate in the 
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Although the 
committee serves in a nonbinding, advisory capacity, it has the 
potential to provide helpful guidance for States Parties with little 
experience in these issues. Through a U.S. citizen presence, we would 
be able to fully leverage expertise in U.S. domestic law and practice, 
to influence and guide the work of the committee. The next election of 
committee members occurs at the Conference of States Parties in 
September, but unless the United States ratifies it will not be able to 
participate in the selection process.
    Ratification would also be good for American business. By 
encouraging other countries to join and implement the Convention, we 
would also help level the playing field to the benefit of U.S. 
companies that already comply with higher disability standards in the 
United States. Guiding and encouraging improved disability standards 
abroad would afford U.S. businesses increased opportunities to export 
innovative products and technologies. As accessibility standards become 
more harmonized--a business objective that the United States can more 
credibly support if it becomes a State Party--the competitive edge 
increases for U.S. companies even further with the opening of new 
markets that will need accessibility products provided by U.S. 
suppliers with expertise in the field.
                                 ______
                                 

              Responses of Eve Hill to Questions Submitted
                    by Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

    Question. As a pro-life Senator, I am aware of concerns regarding 
the applicability of language in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of 
Persons with Disabilities to abortion. How would U.S. ratification of 
this Convention affect issues related to abortion in the United States 
or abroad?

    Answer. The Convention is a nondiscrimination instrument that 
simply provides what the Americans with Disabilities Act already 
requires in the United States: that any health care programs and 
benefits that are provided under domestic law by a State Party, 
including those related to ``sexual and reproductive health,'' also be 
afforded to persons with disabilities on a nondiscriminatory basis. As 
the Secretary's report indicates (Treaty Doc. 112-7 page 59-61), the 
Convention does not make any statement about abortion, does not create 
a right to abortion, and does not promote abortion as a method of 
family planning, leaving the matter to domestic law.

    Question. I have become aware of concerns regarding the potential 
impact of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities on parental decisionmaking. Would U.S. ratification of the 
Convention affect the rights and ability of parents in the United 
States to make decisions about how to raise their children?

    Answer. No. In light of the federalism and private conduct 
reservations, among others, there would be no change to Federal, State 
or local law regarding the ability of parents in the United States to 
make decisions about how to raise or educate their children as a result 
of ratification.
                                 ______
                                 

    Responses of Judith Heumann and Eve Hill to Questions Submitted
                         by Senator Bob Corker

    Question. Article 7, section 2 states--``In all actions concerning 
children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a 
primary consideration.'' This language closely resembles Article 3, 
section 1 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

   (a) To better understand the impact of this language in 
        Article 7 of the UNCRPD, has the Committee on the Rights of the 
        Child--the committee established under that Convention--adopted 
        in any way an interpretation or understanding of this parallel 
        language in Article 3 of UNCRC and what is that understanding?

    Answer. The United States has not ratified the United Nations 
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Even if the United States 
had ratified the CRC, because it is a different instrument, adopted in 
a different context, the administration would not treat the CRC or its 
committee's views as more pertinent as guidance than other views on 
interpreting or implementing Article 7 of the Disabilities Convention.

   (b) If so, could that understanding of the meaning of 
        Article 3 of the UNCRC be reasonably expected to also apply to 
        Article 7 of the UNCRPD, or is there a substantive distinction 
        to be drawn between the meaning of this similar language in 
        these two conventions?

    Answer. As noted above, Article 3 of the CRC is not more pertinent 
to the administration's interpretation of Article 7 of the Disabilities 
Convention than other international sources.

    Question. Can the conclusions, recommendations, or general comments 
issued by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 
become legally binding in any manner through customary international 
law?

    Answer. Customary international law reflects the widespread and 
general custom and practice of states adhered to out of a sense of 
legal obligation (``opinio juris et necessitatis''). The committee is 
not composed of States, and the views of the committee as such, which 
are nonbinding on States Parties, would not become binding under 
customary international law. Only if a rule reflects the widespread and 
general custom and practice of States, adhered to out of a sense of 
legal obligation, does it become binding on States as a matter of 
customary law, with the exception of a persistent objector.

    Question. If the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act were 
repealed, would the United States still meet our obligations under the 
articles of CRPD or would more legislation be required?

    Answer. The United States is not obligated to implement the 
Convention through any particular program or funding mechanism and the 
United States would not need to change U.S. legislation to meet the 
Convention's requirements. The recommended Understanding on Economic, 
Social, and Cultural Rights, which specifically references the 
Convention's Article 25 on Health, makes clear that in the context of 
health care, the obligation of the United States is limited to 
nondiscrimination on the basis of disability. Even before this act was 
passed by Congress, the United States was in a position to be in 
compliance with the Convention, if ratified subject to the 
Reservations, Understandings, and Declaration in the Secretary's 
Report.

    Question. Does ratification of the CRPD create maintenance of 
effort for our current health care laws?

    Answer. No. The recommended Understanding on Economic Social and 
Cultural Rights, which specifically references the Convention's Article 
25 on Health, makes clear that in the context of health care, the 
obligation of the United States is limited to nondiscrimination on the 
basis of disability, and the United States is not obligated to 
implement the Convention through any particular program or funding 
mechanism.

    Question. With the Supreme Court decision narrowing the Medicaid 
requirement for States and if some States decide not to expand their 
Medicaid coverage, will the United States still meet all the 
requirements under the articles of the Convention or will more 
legislation be necessary?

    Answer. The United States would meet the requirements under the 
Convention, if ratified subject to the Reservations, Understandings, 
and a Declaration in the Secretary's Report. No additional legislation 
is necessary because the United States is not obligated to implement 
the Convention through any particular program or funding mechanism. The 
recommended Understanding on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights 
underscores that any references in the Convention related to health 
care and services do not create new rights and simply require 
nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in health care.
                                 ______
                                 

          Response of Dr. Michael Farris to Question Submitted
                         by Senator Jim DeMint

    Question. Why do you believe that it is inaccurate to say that the 
United States will not have to enact any new laws or engage in any new 
spending if we ratify this Convention with the administration's 
recommended RUDs?

    Answer. It is important to understand the nature of a treaty 
obligation to come to a correct answer to this question. If the United 
States becomes a party to the UNCRPD, it is undertaking a solemn and 
binding legal obligation to conform its laws and actions to the terms 
of the treaty. ``Every international agreement in force is binding upon 
the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.'' 
Restatement (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States 
Sec. 321 (American Law Institute 1986).
    Article 4(1)(a) of the UNCRPD provides:

          1. States Parties undertake to ensure and promote the full 
        realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for 
        all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any 
        kind on the basis of disability. To this end, States Parties 
        undertake:
          a. To adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and 
        other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized 
        in the present Convention

    Thus, it is beyond debate that if the United States becomes a party 
to the UNCRPD, we will be required to conform our laws to the 
requirements of this treaty. This fact is true notwithstanding the non-
self-executing declaration that 
has been proposed by the administration. The sole effect of that 
declaration is to remove the possibility that the judiciary could 
directly enforce the provisions of the treaty without implementing 
legislation. It does not in any way relieve the United States from its 
obligation to live up to the terms of the treaty. See, Medellin v. 
Texas, 128 S.Ct. 1346, 1363 (2008). ``The point of a non-self-executing 
treaty is that it `addresses itself to the political, not the judicial 
department; and the legislature must execute the contract before it can 
become a rule for the Court.''' ``The responsibility for transforming 
an international obligation arising from a non-self-executing treaty 
into domestic law falls to Congress.'' Id. at 1368.
    Medellin makes it clear. The United States (through Congress not 
the courts) must comply in good faith with its treaty obligations.
    Once the United States becomes a party to the treaty, the options 
for Congress have been constrained. Assuming that we intend to comply 
with our treaty obligations, Congress will have some range of choices 
in how we comply with the terms of the treaty but it will no longer 
have the lawful ability to determine whether we should comply with the 
terms of the treaty.
    As Professor Geraldine van Bueren stated: ``The Convention and 
other international laws in effect narrows what were previously 
unfettered discretionary powers of governments. Before governments 
become party to a human rights treaty they are obliged to ensure that 
there are the resources, either to implement the Convention on becoming 
party or shortly thereafter, in accordance with international law. 
Hence, there is no interference with national sovereignty, the 
nationally sovereign decisions on how resources on children's rights to 
be expended have already been taken. In essence, the government has 
exercised its political powers, and it has to live with the legal 
consequences.\1\
    We should not be confused by the relative inability of the United 
Nations to forcibly enforce a breach of a treaty obligation with our 
duty of compliance. It is true that the Committee on the Rights of 
Persons with Disabilities has no compulsory powers which can truly 
force a member state to comply with its pronouncements. However, all 
such U.N. tribunals consider their pronouncements to be authoritative 
interpretations of the meaning of their relevant treaty and any failure 
to comply with their determinations is considered to be a breach of an 
international legal obligation.
    It should be remembered that the argument for entering into this 
treaty is so that the United States can be a good example to other 
nations on how to comply with the treaty. If our attitude is ``we 
comply if and when we want to,'' then we will show the rest of the 
world that compliance with the dictates of this treaty is truly 
optional. If we promise nothing more than we want to do, then the other 
nations gain the same ability to comply with only so much of the treaty 
as they wish to obey.
    The hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations paid 
almost no attention to the detailed requirements of this treaty. The 
hearing focused on the altruist goals of the treaty--which no one 
denies are worthy goals. But, virtually no attention was given to the 
detailed requirements of a 50-article treaty.
    Any serious examination of our duty to expend funds would require, 
for example, an examination of the provisions of Article 32. The 
multiple requirements of this Article include ``international 
development programmes'' and ``technical and economic assistance.'' 
These obligations are echoed by the provision of Article 4(2) which 
provides:

        With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, each State 
        Party undertakes to take measures to the maximum of its 
        available resources and, where needed, within the framework of 
        international cooperation, with a view to achieving 
        progressively the full realization of these rights, without 
        prejudice to those obligations contained in the present 
        Convention that are immediately applicable according to 
        international law . . .

    All of this constitutes a binding international obligation to spend 
as much money as possible for disability programs in the United States 
and around the world. It is one thing for us to desire to help other 
nations in their fulfillment of their obligations, it is quite another 
to become legally obligated to do so.
    Consider this analogy. If Person A has a Neighbor B with hungry 
children, A may be quite willing to help B with food for his family on 
occasion. It would be quite a different matter for A to enter into a 
legally binding contract to feed B's children to the maximum extent of 
his available resources.
    The Committee on the Rights of the Child (a parallel group for a 
long-established treaty) routinely finds fault with nations for failing 
to spend enough for the needs of children as required by the UNCRC.\2\ 
That committee specifically criticized Egypt and Indonesia for spending 
a disproportionate share of its resources on military expenditures as 
compared to its spending on children's needs.\3\
    There was also scant attention paid to the issue of the need to 
conform our law to the dictates of the treaty. For example, there was 
no serious effort by any witness to answer my argument that the ``best 
interest'' standard contained in Article 7 is contrary to the parental 
rights provisions of the IDEA. IDEA gives ultimate authority to parents 
to determine what is in their child's best interest. Article 7 
transfers ultimate authority to government.
    The presence of the non-self-executing declaration does not answer 
this concern. That only means that Congress rather than the Court must 
pass new laws to repeal or modify the parental rights provisions of 
IDEA. This treaty requires Congress to make such modifications if it is 
going to act in good faith compliance with its treaty obligations.
    At the end of the day, those who argue that the United States 
undertakes no duty to conform its laws to the dictates of the treaty 
are relying on the callous observation that the U.N. does not have 
sufficient raw power to force the United States to do something we do 
not want to do. That is true enough. But it reveals a great deal about 
the inability of these kinds of treaties to actually force any nation 
to comply with its terms.
    But, if we are going into this treaty for the purpose of being an 
example to the rest of the world, we have to start with the full 
intention to actually obey the treaty ourselves. When we agree to 
comply with the treaty, we are agreeing that America is giving up its 
free choice of policy options with regard to disability law. We are 
promising that we will conform our laws to the dictates of this U.N. 
treaty.
    The Senate has little idea of the full scope of the potential 
changes we must make to comply with this treaty. Detailed inquiry on an 
article by article basis is needed. At a minimum, I have demonstrated 
we will become obligated to modify the IDEA and we will become 
obligated to spend our resources to the maximum extent possible to aid 
other nations in their disability programs. No one can offer a serious 
argument as to why it is necessary for American parents with disabled 
children to give up their rights in order to encourage other nations to 
build greater forms of accessibility.
    The United States Constitution says that treaties are a part of the 
highest law of the land. This is no mere set of altruistic promises and 
goals. We are being asked to give our sacred promise to obey the law of 
the United Nations concerning the domestic policy of the United States.

----------------
    \1\Geraldine van Bueren, ``International Rights of the Child, 
Section D,'' University of London, 36 (2006). Although Professor van 
Bueren was discussing the meaning of the UNCRC, she is stating a 
general legal principle fully applicable to the UNCRPD.
    \2\See, e.g., Paragraph 46, Concluding Observations of the 
Committee on the Rights of the Child: Austria, Committee on the Rights 
of the Child, 38th sess., U.N. Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.251 (2005); Paragraph 
17 and 18, Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of 
the Child: Australia, Committee on the Rights of the Child, 40th sess., 
U.N. Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.268 (2005); Paragraphs 18 and 19, Concluding 
Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Denmark, 
Committee on the Rights of the Child, 40th sess., U.N. Doc. CRC/C/DNK/
CO/3 (2005); Paragraph 10, Concluding Observations of the Committee on 
the Rights of the Child: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern 
Ireland, Committee on the Rights of the Child, 31st sess., U.N. Doc. 
CRC/C/15/Add.188(2002); and Paragraph 24 and 25, Concluding 
Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Ireland, 
Committee on the Rights of the Child, 43rd sess., U.N. Doc. CRC/C/IRL/
CO/2 (2006).
    \3\Geraldine Van Bueren, ``Combating Child Poverty--Human Rights 
Approaches,'' 21 HUM.RTS. Q. 680, 694, 705 (1999).
                                 ______
                                 

    Responses of Judith Heumann and Eve Hill to Questions Submitted 
                       by Senator Johnny Isakson

    Question. The United States has successfully undertaken a 
comprehensive effort to protect the rights of persons with 
disabilities. However, some of the U.S. laws offering these protections 
contain important nuances and exceptions. For example, Title I of the 
Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to employers with fewer 
than 15 employees. The Convention does not appear to contain a similar 
exception. It is my understanding that the administration believes that 
the proposed reservation concerning ``non-regulation of certain private 
conduct'' in conjunction with the declaration that the Convention is 
not self-executing would make it clear that ratification of the treaty 
would not impose a new mandate on employers exempted by the ADA. Can 
you confirm this understanding?

    Answer. Ratification of the Disabilities Convention will not impose 
any new requirements on employers exempted by the Americans with 
Disabilities Act. The proposed reservation on nonregulation of certain 
private conduct would ensure that the treaty obligations undertaken by 
the United States with respect to regulating private conduct are 
coextensive with the requirements of existing U.S. law. The 
Constitution and laws of the United States recognize a zone of private 
activity that is not extensively governed by the United States. For 
example, employers with fewer than 15 employees that are not covered by 
Federal domestic disability legislation would continue to maintain that 
status, and ratification of the Convention would impose no additional 
legal obligations. The non-self-executing declaration would make clear 
that the Convention cannot be directly enforceable by U.S. courts and 
thus, would not give rise to individually enforceable rights.

    Question. Article 27 of the Convention calls on State Parties to 
``protect the rights of persons with disabilities, on an equal basis 
with others, to just and favorable conditions of work, including equal 
opportunities and equal remuneration for work of equal value . . . '' 
(emphasis added). This phrase has raised some concern as it could be 
construed to imply that the Convention contemplates comparable worth. 
The administration has recognized this by proposing an Understanding 
clarifying that ratification of the Convention would not require 
adoption of a comparable worth framework for persons with disabilities. 
However, the description of this Understanding in the Executive 
Summary, is not clear. Can you confirm that the proposed Understanding 
does not require the adoption of a comparable worth framework?

    Answer. Yes. The proposed Understanding (page 67 of Treaty Doc. 
112-7) makes it clear that the Convention does not require the adoption 
of a comparable worth framework for persons with disabilities. Current 
U.S. law is consistent with the language in Article 27 regarding equal 
pay for work of equal value because it provides strong protections for 
persons with disabilities against unequal pay, including the right to 
equal pay for equal work.

    Question. Some have raised concern that the Convention contemplates 
that employers undertake affirmative action measures with respect to 
employment of individuals with disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act 
requires certain Federal contractors and subcontractors to undertake 
affirmative action efforts, but private sector employers who are not 
Federal contractors or subcontractors are not subject to such 
affirmative action requirements. Article 27 of the Convention requires 
State Parties to ``promote the employment of persons with disabilities 
in the private sector through appropriate policies and measures, which 
may include affirmative action programmes, incentives, and other 
measures.'' Is it the administration's view that this language does not 
impose an affirmative action mandate on private sector employers?

    Answer. Yes. The Disabilities Convention does not impose an 
affirmative action mandate on private sector employers. The proposed 
reservation on nonregulation of certain private conduct would ensure 
that the treaty obligations undertaken by the United States with 
respect to regulating private conduct are coextensive with the 
requirements of existing U.S. law. The Constitution and laws of the 
United States recognize a zone of private activity that is not 
extensively governed by the United States. For example, entities such 
as private sector employers that are not Federal contractors or 
subcontractors would not be subject to an affirmative action mandate. 
The non-self-executing declaration would make clear that the Convention 
cannot be directly enforceable by U.S. courts and thus, would not give 
rise to individually enforceable rights.
XIII. Annex 4.--Additional Letters Submitted for the Record in Support 
                           of the Convention