The purpose of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”

… 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.

Yesterday, Sen. John Kerry and former Sen. Bob Dole, among others, urged their Senate colleagues to ratify this UN Disability pact, but fell six votes short. According to Boston.com, the pact

… has already been approved by 125 countries, including China and Russia. Eight Republicans, including Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and the Senate’s two independents joined Democrats in the 61-38 tally. …

Proponents argued that the treaty would help further advance rights for the disabled, including Americans already protected by the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act but who, under the treaty, would benefit from barriers falling across the world.

President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act into law, in 1990. President George W. Bush supported the UN treaty, and in 2009, President Obama became a signatory, which, according to the Boston.com story, “signal(ed) the country’s intent to ratify the agreement.

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, looking frail and requiring a wheelchair, returned to the chamber on Tuesday in a symbolic show of support for the treaty. …

Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and staunch supporter of the treaty, read from a letter written by Dole.

The vote failed, as CNN’s Political Ticker puts it, because

Conservatives warned it might allow the U.N. to impinge on the rights of disabled people and their families in the United States.

Or as the Boston.com piece described it, there was a

… a solid block of GOP members who blocked the bill because of concerns over abortion, US sovereignty, and timing.

ABC News noted:

The convention would not create any new rights that don’t already exist under U.S. law and would not require changes to existing legislation. In fact, it would encourage other countries to model their treatment of disabled people around the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 … .

The eight Senate Republicans who voted to ratify the treaty: Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), John Barrasso (Wyoming), Scott Brown (Massachusetts), Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (Maine), Richard Lugar (Indiana), John McCain (Arizona), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

More about the GOP opposition at The Cable:

The treaty engendered the late opposition of some Senate Republicans and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), who activated his Patriot PAC to build grassroots conservative momentum against ratification. The Heritage Foundation’s advocacy arm, Heritage Action, has also taken up the cause of opposing the treaty based on the idea it infringes upon American sovereignty, along with the Family Research Council.

Santorum claimed the treaty “˜would put the state in the position of determining what is in the best interest of a disabled child,’ and allow the government to overrule parents when making decisions about their disabled children.

… Rep. Mike Lee (R-UT) … decried the treaty as an assault on American sovereignty. Lee argued with Kerry during Tuesday’s floor debate over whether the treaty would affect U.S. law, as Lee claimed. Kerry pointed out that the treaty’s ratification would not change U.S. law … .

In response, Lee admitted that the treaty does not directly alter U.S. law, but said it could have unintended consequences in the future.

Also at The Cable:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued a statement accusing Republicans of succumbing to pressure from right wing groups and promising to bring the treaty up again in the Senate next year.

“˜Today, we had a chance to lead, and we failed because a small group of Republican senators fear the Tea Party more than they care about equality for people with disabilities,’ Reid said.

(John Kerry Urging Passage of Disabilities Treaty via KerrySenate.org)