Harry Reid Questions GOP's Rationality On Fiscal Cliff After Disability Treaty Fails

12/05/2012 11:56 am ET | Updated Dec 05, 2012

WASHINGTON -- The failure of Republicans to ratify a treaty on disabilities raises questions about their rationality in fiscal cliff negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid argued Wednesday.

Republicans opposed ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Tuesday, based on the debunked grounds that it threatens United States sovereignty and the rights of homeschoolers.

"Consider yesterday's failure, the disabilities convention, at the hands of the Tea Party," Reid said on the Senate floor. "This shouldn't have been a battle, but extreme elements of the Republican Party picked a fight where there was nothing to fight about."

Reid noted that even some of its supporters -- including GOP cosponsors -- turned on the measure, which is unpopular with people on the right who think the U.N. is trying to take over the United States.

"This treaty, already ratified by 125 countries, would hold foreign nations to the same high standard of treatment the U.S. already maintains for people with disabilities," Reid said. "And it would safeguard American citizens traveling, working and serving abroad."

That's the kind of thing Reid suggested most people would support, including people like former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), who came to the Senate Tuesday in support of the treaty.

Reid suggested the mindset displayed in blocking the treaty is troubling -- and a bad sign for the fiscal cliff talks.

"These are the same Republicans with whom Democrats are supposed to reach an agreement to protect middle-class families from a tax increase," Reid said. "It’s difficult to engage in rational negotiation when one side holds well-known facts and proven truths in such low esteem."

But he also argued there are a "few reasonable Republicans left in Congress" who would vote in the House with 191 Democrats and pass a Senate bill that would keep tax rates the same for most Americans, averting the tax-hike half of the fiscal cliff.

“I still believe there are 26 reasonable Republicans willing to put their promise to serve constituents ahead of their pledge to Grover Norquist," Reid said, referring the the leader of the anti-tax group, Americans for Tax Reform.

Democrats and President Barack Obama want to keep taxes at current rates for income under $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals. Under the current law, taxes revert to the Clinton-era rates for all people after the start of the year.

Democrats are arguing that Congress should protect the 98 percent of people who fall in that category, and fight over the remaining 2 percent later.

They tried to raise the pressure on the GOP later with a press conference calling on the House to act on the Senate bill, or at least let members sign a petition there that would require a vote.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) argued that many Republicans would be willing if House Speaker John Boehner were willing to let them.

"The House Republican leadership are like generals hunkered away in a bunker unaware that their troops have already laid down arms," Schumer said.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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