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Sen. Jim DeMint is stirring up Senate Republican opposition to U.N. treaties pushed by the Obama administration expanding disability rights, setting law for the seas and placing controls on the international arms trade.
DeMint’s activism appears to be an unusual foray into foreign affairs for a senator normally focused on cutting federal spending, but it enables the second-term South Carolinian to rouse conservative activists on hot-button issues such as home schooling and gun control.
“Our founders warned us not to get entangled with foreign governments with unnecessary treaties,” DeMint told McClatchy on Wednesday. “We don’t need to go beyond our Constitution and federalist system by allowing our fundamental rights to be dictated by unaccountable and unelected international bureaucrats.”
In 42 months in office, President Barack Obama has submitted 11 international treaties to the Senate, which under the Constitution must approve any bilateral or multilateral accord by a two-thirds vote for it to be ratified. Some of them took years to negotiate and were backed by his predecessors.
With Democrats now holding 53 Senate seats, Obama would need to pick up votes from at least 14 of the 47 Republicans in order to enact any of the accords and make them binding on the United States.
“The Obama administration is trying to move forward with numerous treaties,” DeMint said. “They include one that gives the U.N. control over the oceans that are two-thirds of the world’s surface, another that empowers government agents to make decisions on children with disabilities instead of parents and even a treaty on international gun control rules that would erode our Second Amendment rights.”
In recent months, DeMint has tangled with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the accords, opposed U.S. military leaders and gone up against other Republican senators.
Of the three accords cited by DeMint, the one with the broadest bipartisan Senate support is the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which 117 nations have ratified since its December 2006 adoption at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York.
After a one-week delay force by DeMint, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was to take up the disabilities accord today on the 22nd anniversary of President George H. W. Bush signing into law the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.
Four Republicans on the panel are likely to join its 10 Democrats in approving the U.N. disabilities treaty and sending it to the full Senate, where DeMint aides acknowledged the tea party hero faces an uphill battle in preventing ratification.
At a July 12 hearing on the accord, Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who backs it, read a letter of support from former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the 1996 GOP presidential nominee from Kansas who is disabled from a World War II wound that left his right arm emaciated and limp at his side.
“This landmark treaty requires countries around the world to affirm what are essentially core American values of equality, justice and dignity,” Dole wrote.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Seneca, S.C., Republican and close ally of McCain, hasn’t taken a position on the accord, which is backed by several disabled veterans’ groups. Graham, a military lawyer, is the only member of Congress to have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.