You wouldn't think it would be difficult to ratify a U.N. treaty that is based on an existing U.S. law. But then again, you might not have met the modern Republican Party, where ideological zealots rule.
On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bill had passed the House and the Senate with only 34 legislators combined opposing it.
This week, 38 Republican senators voted nay on a U.N. treaty that would extend the ADA to the rest of the world. They included six senators who had voted yay on the original bill in 1990.
The treaty was adopted by the United Nations six years ago and has since been ratified by 126 countries … just not the United States.
Even a last-minute appeal by former Sen. Bob Dole, himself a disabled veteran, as well as every major veterans group and even the Chamber of Commerce, could not sway Senate Republicans.
This is what has become of the Republican Party—a party whose votes are driven by an appeal to the lowest common denominator and by paranoid fears of the U.N. that are devoid of any fact whatsoever.
One of the reasons cited by Senate Republicans for their unwillingness to ratify a seemingly uncontroversial treaty providing protections to people with disabilities is that they didn't believe big decisions should be made by a lame-duck Congress.
Really? And these are the same folks we are supposed to be in serious negotiations with about the impending “fiscal cliff”?
Even Mitch McConnell should be able to acknowledge the hypocrisy in that one.
Over the course of the fiscal cliff negotiations, one thing has become crystal clear: The schisms in the Republican Party are growing more and more pronounced.
I have long said there are three distinct groups under the GOP's tent: theological warriors, who want to impose their social views on the rest of society; Tea Party zealots, who say with a straight face that they want the government to get out of their Medicare; and remnants of the pro-business moderates. While their fiscal views aren't mine, the moderates are the last reasonable voice in the current Republican Party.
Only this last group is willing to compromise, and only they combine their ideologies with the practical necessities of governing. And this group is bit-by-bit peeling itself away from the doctrinal and extreme views of the rest of the party.
The most important question remains, though: Are there enough of them to make a deal and rein in the GOP circus?
One could understand Harry Reid's frustration in trying to negotiate with Republicans when he vented, "It's difficult to engage in rational negotiation when one side holds well-known facts and proven truths in such low esteem." Reid is spot on.