A procedural tactic was used yesterday by an anonymous Senator to delay a planned Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote on the international treaty for women’s rights. “Democrats and Republicans have historically used the rule to try and stop the action of a committee,” said Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the committee. “We did not anticipate this.” Ratified by 170 countries, the Convention for the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was drafted by the United Nations to provide a standard for women’s equality and rights. The United States is the only industrialized nation that has not ratified the treaty, which means that our government is aligned with such nations as the Taliban’s Afghanistan, Iran and Sudan.
Biden addressed a packed committee room filled with CEDAW supporters, including Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, after the hearing was cancelled. He expressed confidence that the treaty would be voted out of committee before the Senate recesses in August. Biden scheduled a hearing for next Thursday at 10:15 a.m. as well as three backup dates for the following week.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the committee’s sole female member, asked the Feminist Majority and other CEDAW supporters to contact Republican members of the committee to ensure they vote for US ratification of the treaty. “This treaty has been around since 1980,” Boxer said. “We’ve taken care of every reservation, every issue they’ve raisedÉso there isn’t any issue [remaining].”
The Senate committee held the first hearing in eight years on CEDAW last month. While the Bush administration told the Senate six months ago that CEDAW was “generally desirable and should be approved,” Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote the committee last week to say that the administration now feels that the treaty should be studied by the Justice Department and Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was an opponent of CEDAW when he was in the Senate.