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Senator Tom Harkin (D. IA) undoubtedly has a terrific record sticking up for the little guy.  He's a true blue public servant not just for the good people of Iowa but for every hardworking American.  But if there is one thing Harkin will (and should) always be remembered for it's his great work for people with disabilities.  Harkin is known for authoring the Americans with Disabilities Act back in 1990.  This landmark legislation protects the civil rights of more than 54 million Americans with physical and mental disabilities.  Harkin has also taken the lead in the Senate to improve education opportunities for children with disabilities.  He's a hero to those with disabilities and a hero in my eyes.  Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Harkin's colleague, Senator Chuck Grassley (R. IA) and his 37 other GOP Senators:

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The defeat Tuesday in the U.S. Senate of an international treaty purportedly aimed at eliminating international discrimination against people with disabilities split the votes of Iowa's two senators.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined 37 other Republicans in saying no, leaving the measure five votes short. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, joined 60 others, including eight Republicans, who voted in favor of the treaty.

The agreement, negotiated under President George W. Bush's administration and signed in 2009 by President Barack Obama, is opposed by anti-abortion groups, advocates for home-schooling and others. They argue the measure encourages abortion overseas and impinges on the rights of American parents to educate their children. - WCF Courier, 12/5/12

With 38 Republicans casting "no" votes, the 61-38 vote fell five short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty.  The treaty has already been signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries.  The treaty is meant to make sure that people with disabilities all over the world are guaranteed the same rights and freedoms as their fellow citizens.

The treaty the news story is referring to is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Supporters of the treaty argue that the treaty is common sense legislation that would help other countries laws mirror the Americans with Disabilities Act aimed to help disabled Americans overseas.  The treaty has the backing of major disability groups.  Former Senate Majority leader Bob Dole (R. KS), a longtime advocate for people with disabilities, even returned to Washington D.C. to come out in support of the treaty.  But off course Grassley and the 37 other Republicans ignored Dole and instead listened to this guy:

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The reason I have so strongly opposed CRPD is also simple. Karen and I have experienced first-hand as we care for our little blessing, Bella, that parents and caregivers care most deeply and are best equipped to care for the disabled. Not international bureaucrats.

CRPD—whatever its intentions—has many troubling aspects.

There is not a clear definition of “disability” in the treaty, which means some committee at the U.N. will decide after ratification who is covered—an example of what is at the heart of the problem. CRPD gives too much power to the U.N., and the unelected, unaccountable committee tasked with overseeing its implementation, while taking power and responsibility away from our elected representatives and, more important, from parents and caregivers of disabled persons. - Rick Santorum, The Daily Beast, 12/5/12

Rick Santorum spewing that "government overreach" rhetoric claiming the U.N. is taking away the rights from parents.  But that's not really the case here for why Santorum pushed Republicans to vote down this treaty:

Some have criticized the treaty as undermining U.S. sovereignty and threatening parental rights on such issues as home-schooling. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., has helped lead a charge against the measure.

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Some abortion rights opponents have singled out a section of the treaty that calls for providing the disabled “the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programs ... including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programs.” They say the bill promotes abortion overseas and could undermine efforts to overturn the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. - Omaha World-Herald Bureau, 12/4/12

Senator Jim Inhofe spoke against the treaty claiming the treaty to be a threat to U.S. national sovereignty:

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"I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society," said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. - Huffington Post, 12/4/12

Except that the treaty isn't a threat to U.S. sovereignty:

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Proponents said there was no evidence to suggest an impact on U.S. sovereignty, and they disputed that it would encourage abortion or affect parents’ ability to raise their children. Harkin has spoken of the disabled overseas being kept in deplorable conditions and in isolation. The treaty, he said, would give Americans, particularly those with disabilities, a seat at the international table from which they could influence other countries.

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“We are the best in the world at this,” said Harkin, the primary author of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “This treaty will make us a better world in which to live.” - WCF Courier, 12/5/12

At least Grassley was honest about his reason for voting "no"... sort of:

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"These provisions call into question the purpose of the convention regarding abortion rights and the fundamental rights of parents to determine how best to raise their children," he said. - WCF Courier, 12/5/12

Oh yeah, this teabagger lead the opposition in the Senate:

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The opposition was led by tea party favorite Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who argued that the treaty by its very nature threatened U.S. sovereignty. Specifically he expressed concerns that the treaty could lead to the state, rather than parents, determining what was in the best interest of disabled children in such areas as home schooling, and that language in the treaty guaranteeing the disabled equal rights to reproductive health care could lead to abortions. Parents, Lee said, will "raise their children with the constant looming threat of state interference." - Huffington Post, 12/4/12

Senator John Kerry (D. MA), a strong supporter of the treaty and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, defended the treaty:

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"It really isn't controversial," Kerry, D-Mass., said. "What this treaty says is very simple. It just says that you can't discriminate against the disabled. It says that other countries have to do what we did 22 years ago when we set the example for the world and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act."

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In a statement after the vote, Kerry said it was "one of the saddest days I've seen in almost 28 years in the Senate and it needs to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that's letting down the American people." - Huffington Post, 12/4/12

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Senator Harkin called the vote a “shameful day in our history.”  There's no other way to put.  Republicans folding under pressure from right-wing, anti-choice extremists like Rick Santorum in denying disabled people around the country the same rights is absolutely shameful.  Grassley and the other 37 Republican Senators should be ashamed of themselves.  At least eight Republicans broke ranks from their party and voted in favor of the treaty and spoke highly of it:

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The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities has been signed by 153 countries. It was negotiated by President Bush, and signed again by President Obama in 2009. Its Republican supporters have also included 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

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Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, defeated by a Tea Party candidate in the GOP primary last spring, made one of the final speeches of his 36 year Senate career in support of the treaty. “With these provisions, the United States can join the convention as an expression — an expression — of our leadership on disability rights without ceding any of out ability to decide for ourselves how best to address those issues in our laws,” said Lugar. - Seattle Pi, 12/4/12

McCain and Lugar were two of eight GOP Senators to vote for the treaty.  The other Republican Senators include Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snow of Maine.

This vote is a terrific reminder of why we need to keep the Senate in Democratic control and why we need great men like Harkin in the Senate.  We need someone who stands up for the needs of the disabled and there's no one more dedicated to the cause than Tom Harkin.  Harkin is up for re-election in 2014.  he hasn't announced yet if he is going to retire but there's a good amount of reason to believe he will run for re-election:

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“He’s a relatively young, vigorous guy who shows no slackening interest in doing what he does,” said Drake political science professor Dennis Goldford, who has been following Iowa politics since 1985. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see Harkin give at least one more go.” - Ames Tribune, 11/10/12

Lets give Harkin a head start so he can continue to fight for the disabled in the U.S. Senate:

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    Funny Stuff at

    by poopdogcomedy on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:09:00 AM PST

  •  Harkin and Grassley are polar opposites, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and yet the voters of my state keep reelecting both of them--they've been my Senators for my entire 25-year existence. It's baffling! Harkin is one of the most liberal Democrats in the Senate, and Grassley is pretty far to the right. I mean, I would understand if one or both were centrists, but they represent the opposite ends of the political spectrum. Iowa truly is a purple state in this sense--but it gives me hope that we can eventually replace Grassley with another solid liberal. :)

    "In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction." -Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

    by rigcath on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 10:21:57 AM PST

    •  I hear ya and I agree. But first things first, we (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      need to keep Harkin in the Senate for as long as we can.  I think he will run for re-election again but lets get him re-elected first and then see of Grandpa Grassley will call it quits in 2016.  

      Funny Stuff at

      by poopdogcomedy on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 10:39:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed. I think they're in a retirement standoff (0+ / 0-)

        As soon as the first one retires, the other will announce his retirement. Let's hope Grassley blinks first.

        "In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction." -Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

        by rigcath on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 10:55:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Harkin's strong leadership (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    on disabilities is the result of having a deaf brother, same as John McCain. Oddly enough, in both cases, the death brother's name was Frank. Harkin would have been a good president had he won the nomination in '92.

    "Valerie, why am I getting all these emails calling me a classless boor?"

    by TLS66 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 11:36:50 AM PST

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