The US Senate, led by right-wing Republican opposition, rejected a United Nations treaty today on the rights of the disabled.
With 38 Republicans casting No votes, the 61-38 vote fell five short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty.
The vote took place in an unusually solemn atmosphere, with senators sitting at their desks rather than milling around the podium.
The treaty, which has already been signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, simply states that nations should strive to assure that the disabled enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as their fellow citizens.
It was negotiated by the George W Bush administration, completed in 2006 and signed by President Barack Obama in 2009.
The blueprint for the UN treaty, formally called the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was the US Americans with Disabilities Act, which put the US in the forefront of efforts to secure equal rights for the disabled in 1990.
Republicans ludicrously claimed that the treaty could pose a threat to US national sovereignty.
"I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organisations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society," huffed Republican Senator Jim Inhofe.
The treaty had been widely backed by the disabilities community and veterans groups.
White House press secretary Jay Carney called the vote disappointing and noted that President Obama had declared just before the vote that "disability rights should not stop at our nation's shores."