The Last Word | December 04, 2012
>>> the senate rewrote itself on the rights of the disabled. and the united states senate shamed itself today. once again. it pains me to say that, it really does, having worked in the senate for seven years, i think the senate remains a great institution which has done much, much more to be proud of than the rare occurrences that it should be ashame of. i don't usually think when a vote doesn't go my way in the united states senate , the senate should be ashamed of itself. i think that the senate has a right, a moral right to arrive at outcomes that i don't like. to arrive at outcomes i hate and to arrive at them with a reasonable exercise of senate decision making. i don't think that every procedural roadblock that republicans throw in front of senate democrats is shameful. i've seen democrats do the same thing to republicans and i working on the senate floor have tried to do the same thing to republicans myself. in my seven years in the senate , i didn't recall one day of shame for the senate as a whole. most senators were innocent bystanders in the judiciary hearing that pitted anita hill against clarence thomas . if you found that hearing shameful, the shame was on the judiciary committee , in my view, and not on the united states senate acting as a whole. i tell you all this simply to stress how rare it is. how difficult it is for me to declare a today of shame in the united states senate . this was such a day of shame and sadness. john kerry in his role as chairman of the senate foreign relations committee was leading the senate as the floor manager of a treaty . on the other side of the aisle, the senior republican on the foreign relations committee rose, not in opposition but in support of that same treaty . richard lugar and john kerry got 61 votes in the senate today for ratification of a united nations treaty on the rights of the disabled, which was modeled on a law passed by the senate . 22 years ago, the americans with disabilities act . in effect, it was a vote to export american law to the 155 nations around the world that have signed this treaty . a treaty that has already been ratified by 126 of those countries, including the united kingdom , france, germany, china, russia has ratified it. now you can pass anything in the senate with 60 votes. except treaties which require 66. a two-thirds majority. every democrat voted for the treaty and only eight republicans voted for the treaty . 38 republicans disgraced themselves and disgraced the senate . by voting against it and controlling the outcome. john kerry tried everything he could on the senate floor to show republicans the way to vote for this treaty .
>> it really isn't controversial. what this treaty says is very simple. it just says that you can't discriminate against the disabled. it says that other countries have to do what we did 22 years ago when we set the example for the world and passed the americans with disabilities act .
>> the treaty was supported by organizations representing people with disabilities and veterans groups but that was not good enough for 38 republicans . it was supported by senator john mccain , himself a disabled veteran.
>> bob dole has been our leader on the issue of disabilities from the moment he stepped foot into the chamber. to bob, it is unthinkable that americans could not get over a curb or enter a school building or even watch a debate in this chamber if they were in a wheelchair.
>> but that was not good enough for 38 of john mccain 's republican colleagues, including his usual ally, lindsay graham . treaties take years to negotiate before they come to a vote. this treaty , though signed by president obama , was actually negotiated by president george w. bush . but that was not good enough for 38 republicans . republicans made up transparently ridiculous reasons to vote against it. they said it threatened america's sovereignty, even though senator kerry repeatedly showed them that the treaty requires no changes in u.s. law and that the treaty cannot be used as the basis for a lawsuit in u.s. courts. the opponents said it was inappropriate to consider a treaty ma post election lame duck session , never mind that just since i've been watching the senate , they've approved treaties 19 times during lame duck sessions. and then they said, and this is what did it, this is what the 38 no votes were trapped by, the tiniest possible interest group you could imagine affecting the outcome of something so important. the homeschooling crowd. then they said that the treaty endangered homeschooling. homeschooling fanatics expressed worry that the treaty could lead to the government imposing new regulations on the homeschooling of disabled children, even though there is no language they could point to in the treaty that could justify any such worry. republicans who knew this was a lie still based their vote on it, because that is how much they live in fear of any interest group , of any size, with any affiliation with the tea party . the opposition to the treaty was led by tea party darling mike lee of utah who is in the second undistinguished year of what america can only hope is a short senate career. the senior senator from utah , orrin hatch , who voted for the americans with disabilities act 22 years ago, voted against the treaty today because he now, even after just winning reelection, lives in fear of tea party protesters at his door of his local office in utah . orrin hatch who embarrassed himself, some would say shamed himself in the anita hill , clarence thomas hearings, has many, many times in his 35 years senate career cast honorable votes. i've seen him do it. cast honorable votes. those days are over for orrin hatch now. and today proved it in a deeply personal way. as the vote approached former senator bob dole , a dear friend of orrin hatch 's was wheeled on to the senate floor by his wife, form he senator elizabeth dole . bob dole himself, a disabled war veteran , was a strong but on this day silent supporter of the treaty . rolling the 89-year-old former republican senate leader on to the floor was a move designed to reach into the hearts of the senators on that floor, who knew bob dole well. who worked with him closely in the old days. senators like orrin hatch , chuck grassley , mitch mcconnell , richard shelby , thad cochran . senator dole went to the floor today needing just five, yes votes from old friends. here's how bob dole 's old friends voted.
>> mr. cochran. mr. cochran. no. mr. shelby. mr. shelby, no. mr. grassley. mr. grassley, no. senators voting in the negative. mcconnell, mr. hatch, mr. hatch, no.
>> bob dole needed five votes today. those five votes were all he needed. bob dole received into their hearts today. and found nothing. after the vote, john kerry said, it was one of the saddest days i've seen in almost 28 years in the senate . we know that when bob dole leaves us, which i hope doesn't happen for a very, very long time, those five men, if they're still with us, will rise on the they will know and we will know on the day when they could have honored bob dole . honored his vision as a legislator. honor his friendship and his personal kindnesses to him over many, many years. they failed bob dole . with one word, no. they failed their old friend. they dishonored themselves and they dishonored the united states senate .