T he unbelievable silliness that too often pervades the U.S. Senate has struck again. This time, a few loonies on the fringe convinced other rational and ostensibly intelligent senators to reject extending the core principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to people in other nations.
Republicans cast all the dissenting votes that shot down the ratification of a United Nations treaty designed to pressure nations around the world to treat their disabled citizens fairly and without discrimination.
How did it happen that Republicans shunned the values of legislation signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, while being watched from the Senate floor by 89-year-old former Senate majority leader Bob Dole, who now uses a wheelchair?
Fear. It’s not surprising that the crazy ultra-right-wing fringe of the Republican Party claimed the U.N. treaty could lead to the surrendering of U.S. sovereignty.
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It is surprising that 38 Republican senators believed all that nonsense. Sen. John McCain, a disabled Vietnam war veteran, tried in vain to appeal to his colleagues rational side. “Trying to turn this into an abortion debate is bad politics and just wrong,” he said.
Even the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce supported ratification of the treaty. It argued that forcing other nations to accommodate people with disabilities would give the U.S. a competitive economic edge, because we have already conformed to ADA requirements.
But Republicans turned their backs even on disabled U.S. citizens, including veterans, who would benefit from ADA laws while in foreign countries.