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Politics, Elections and Government

Dole Campaigns For Roberts Despite Vote Against UN Disability Treaty

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Former Sen. Bob Dole is campaigning for Pat Roberts in his Senate re-election effort, but on the issue Dole has been most vocal about lately — the U.S. signing on to a United Nations agreement solidifying the rights of people with disabilities — Roberts’ opponent seems more in line with Dole's views.

Roberts voted against the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012, when it fell six votes short of Senate ratification despite Dole entering the chamber in a wheelchair before the vote to make one last pitch for the convention.

A spokesman for the campaign of Greg Orman, the independent candidate from Johnson County who is Roberts' main obstacle to a fourth U.S. Senate term, said Orman would have voted for the treaty.

“Greg doesn’t believe that we should be playing politics with important issues like this and agrees with Senator Dole that those with disabilities should be granted the same rights and protection as everyone else,” Orman's campaign manager, Jim Jonas, said in an emailed statement.

The U.N. convention was drafted at the end of 2006 and more than 150 countries, including nearly all those in Europe and South America, have since ratified it.

The convention mirrors rights granted under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but opponents have raised concerns about the United States ceding sovereignty to an international body. The Home School Legal Defense Fund urged its supporters to lobby against the treaty, saying its educational rights provisions could pose a threat to those who home-school disabled children.

Dole has been touring all 105 Kansas counties this year and at a tour stop in the spring said that the home-school fears were unfounded, but he understood the political problem they created for conservative Republicans who voted no — including Roberts and Kansas’ other senator, Jerry Moran.

Dole, 91, was still pushing senators to ratify the convention as recently as of July. Since then he has appeared at campaign events with Roberts and has recorded a TV ad for the incumbent that began to run this week.

Roberts’ campaign did not respond to an email seeking comment about his vote against the convention and whether his position had changed.

Dole declined to comment on Roberts’ position on the U.N. convention, and an aide said the former senator “would prefer not to broach that subject at this point.”

Jonas said the stalled U.N. convention was evidence of the sort of dysfunction Orman is running to change.

“The failure of this treaty - despite former Senator Bob Dole’s passionate advocacy for it - is just another example of how Washington is broken,” Jonas said.

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