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In Case You Missed It: Corker: Supreme Court Case Highlights Concerns about Impact of Treaties on U.S. Law

WASHINGTON – During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to consider the U.N. Disabilities Treaty, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member of the committee, noted a current Supreme Court case as evidence of a treaty’s potential to expand federal power beyond current limits and sought answers as to whether Congress can impose appropriate limitations (known as “reservations, understandings and declarations” or “RUDs” that accompany passage of a treaty and represent U.S. understanding of its commitments and any other implications of ratification).  

“Just today there is a Supreme Court hearing that's taking place, arguments are being argued over a lady in Pennsylvania named Bond who unbelievably…was convicted [for violating] the chemical weapons treaty that we put in place back in 1997,” said Corker. “Sometimes when people raise concerns, they are actually legitimate. I would just ask committee members to try to work with those of us who understand that we want to advance the rights of people who are disabled throughout the world.  I want to. I think that's a good thing. At the same time, within a treaty, unless the RUDs on the front end are put in place in an appropriate way, there can be some consequences here domestically that effect people in various groups.”

The high court heard oral arguments Tuesday in Bond v. U.S., a case in which a Pennsylvania woman is challenging her conviction in federal court for an alleged violation of a federal law implementing the chemical-weapons convention after she admitted to lacing a friend’s mailbox and car with toxic chemicals.  The federal government’s decision to prosecute Bond under a law that relies on expanded authority derived from ratification of a treaty might violate the 10th amendment to the Constitution, which articulates the principle of federalism, whereby all powers not explicitly granted to the federal government are reserved for the states and the people.

In addition, University of Georgia law professor Timothy Meyer acknowledged additional clarifying language, absent in last year’s resolution of ratification to the CRPD, would be necessary to prevent any evolution of U.S. obligations under the treaty.

“American interests at home can be protected through a declaration that the CRPD is not self-executing, as well as a package of reservations, understandings, and declarations (RUDs) that clarify that the United States is not undertaking any commitments that exceed the extensive rights available under existing federal and state laws,” said Meyer in his written testimony.  “The United States could use ratification of the CRPD to clarify once again that the parties to the Convention are under no obligation to accord any weight to expert committee’s interpretations”

For complete archived footage of the hearing and complete witness testimony, visit: