Utah Sen. Mike Lee is taking a leading role on two critical issues before the lame duck Congress, as he successfully passed an amendment he says will protect the legal rights of Americans.
Lee is also spearheading opposition to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which he says erodes American sovereignty and diminishes the rights of parents.
On Thursday, Lee teamed with California Democrat Dianne Feinstein to amend the new version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Lee says they were very concerned that previous language in the law could result in the loss of some of the most cherished rights in the U.S. legal system.
“We were concerned that language in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act could be read to suggest that the government has the power to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely, without trial, without charge, based solely on the nature of the allegations against them,” said Lee. “This is dangerous. It violates the fifth and sixth amendments to the Constitution. It’s not something that we as Americans should tolerate.”
The Lee-Feinstein amendment, known as the Due Process Guarantee Act, was easily approved on Thursday evening by a vote of 67-29.
“That says basically the opposite of what we read the NDAA last year to say,” he said. “It says that if you’re a U.S. citizen and you’re detained in the United States, you’re entitled to charge and trial and nothing in existing law can be read to suggest otherwise.”
Lee says 20 of the 67 votes in favor of the amendment came from Republicans.
The Senate is also expected to vote on the proposed UN treaty on the disabled in December. Lee is taking a leading role in trying to sink the plan. He says all lawmakers want to champion the rights of the disabled and the U.S. is easily the gold standard in this arena. However, he says this treaty is fatally flawed in multiple ways.
“It undermines U.S. sovereignty and it tries to internationalize domestic policy. I’m uncomfortable with that,” said Lee.
But just as troublesome to the senator is what he sees as a threat to parents’ rights.
“A number of groups consisting of parents of children with disabilities, particularly those who choose to home school their children with disabilities are especially concerned about this because it contains language suggesting that in deciding what is the proper standard of care and educational treatment for a disabled child. The ‘Best Interest of the Child’ standard shall be a significant factor,” said Lee. “The problem with that is that it takes away rights that belong to parents, and it threatens to potentially put the government in charge of decisions that ought to be made by the family and not by the government.”
Sen. Lee also elaborated on why he believes the treaty compromises U.S. sovereignty.
“It contains language embracing what are known as economic, social and cultural rights. This is language that the U.S. has for decades refused to incorporate into any treaty ratified by the United States,” said Lee. “It was developed by Soviet bloc countries during the Cold War as an indicator of a willingness to embrace forms of socialism.”
Sixty-seven votes are needed to ratify a treaty, meaning opponents need just 34 to stop it. Lee says he has 36 votes ready to reject it and supporters would need 67 votes regardless of how many senators are present.