The issue: What’s not to like about an international treaty that would ban discrimination?
It may be difficult for many to remember how formidable Bob Dole was. The respected lion of the Senate, former Senate majority leader and standard-bearer of the Republican Party in 1996 worked miracles across the aisle with Democrats. It was a different era.
AND THAT’S WHY it was so heartbreaking to see the 89-year-old Kansan in his wheelchair return to the Senate floor trying, in vain, to persuade fellow Republicans to vote for an international treaty to ban discrimination against people with disabilities.
What’s not to like about such an admirable goal?
But the Senate vote failed to support the treaty, already ratified by most other nations, because some Republicans hate and fear the United Nations. The vote was 61 in favor and 38 against. But 66 votes were needed to approve it.
The opponents argued — weirdly, in our view — that the treaty could permit the United Nations to trump state laws and override parents of disabled children, who, for example, wanted to home-school their children. These opponents certainly have an overrated view of the U.N.’s power and organizational ability.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., gave one of his most impassioned speeches ever arguing that such an outcome would never happen. He pointed out repeatedly that the treaty was based on the Americans With Disabilities Act. He looked sadly at his old friend Dole, pleading, “Don’t let Sen. Bob Dole down.”
But the Senate did. Only Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire voted for the measure. Lugar, Brown and Snowe will not be in the Senate next year.
THERE WERE TEARS shed in the Senate after the vote. Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada put out a statement: “It is a sad day when we cannot pass a treaty that simply brings the world up to the American standard for protecting people with disabilities because the Republican Party is in thrall to extremists and ideologues.”