By: Robert Santurri Jr.
There have been a lot of disgusting moments within politics in recent history that have made even the biggest cynic appalled. One of those moments occurred this week within the chambers of the United States Senate. The Senate voted on the U.N. Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the result should have been a cakewalk. After all, the convention promotes equal rights for not just disabled people in the United States but worldwide. However, 38 Republican senators voted the bill down and the bill fell short of the two-thirds majority necessary for ratifiaction.
Many Republicans were in opposition of this bill since some of them seem to believe that this bill would threaten American soverignity. Republicans like former Presidential candidate Rick Santorum voiced their opinion that this bill would take the power away from elected representatives and give it to the United Nations. However, Santorum and other Republicans who opposed this bill seem to forget that this convention already has 154 countries as signatories and 126 parties. Do the Republicans in the United States Senate honestly believe that all of these countries would simply sign away their own soverignity and give the power instead to the United Nations for no apparent reason? This seems to be the case.
So where does the cowardice part come into play? After all, Senate Republicans voting this bill down comes off seems abhorrent more than anything. The connection lies in the words and actions of many Senate Republicans leading up to the vote and the way they went about it. It also lies with former Presidential candidate Bob Dole.
89-year old Robert Joseph “Bob” Dole who is best known to Americans today as a former Presidential candidate who faced off against Bill Clinton for the Presidency in the 90’s. However, Bob Dole is also a World War II veteran who was injured in combat in April 1945 while attempting to reach a downed radio man. Dole was hit by German machine gun fire in the upper right back and right arm. His wounds at the time seemed grave and it also seemed likely that he would die there in Italy. However, Dole pulled through despite losing a great amount of ability in his right arm for the rest of his life. Dole received two Purple Hearts for his injuries, and the Bronze Star with combat “V” for valor for attempting to assist the downed radio man. Dole was also a United States Senator for almost thirty years and at one point was the Senate Majority Leader. Bob Dole also expressed his support for this convention and actually made an appearance on the Senate floor before the vote.
Meredith Shiner at Roll Call paints the picture:
One by one, Senators of both parties approached the frail national leader, with former colleagues gently resting their hands on his shoulder or reaching out to his left hand,briefly clasping hands with the man who once presided over the chamber with a mix of wit, tactical guile and ruthlessness.
Then, one by one, after Dole was wheeled off the floor, most Republicans voted against the measure. Many members did not register their “nay” votes verbally, instead whispering their opposition directly to the clerk or gesturing their hands from their chairs.
The cowardice doesn’t end there however.
Josh Rogin over at Foreign Policy gives some insight about how some Senate Republicans turned their back on the Disability community at the last moment:
David Morrissey, the executive director of the United States International Council on Disabilities, told The Cable in an interview that his group and many others had been assured by numerous GOP senators that they would vote in favor of ratification, but then disabilities groups were given no warning when those senators reversed themselves and voted “no.”
Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts were the most shocking “no” votes because both had personally committed to support the treaty to former Sen. Bob Dole, who hails from their home state of Kansas and who appeared in the Senate chamber Tuesday in his wheelchair. Moran had announced his support for the treaty back in May, in a public event along with Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and John Barrasso (R-WY), both of whom fulfilled their pledge to vote “yes.”
Several GOP senators actually RSVPd for a reception held at the Capitol Tuesday morning to honor Dole, a disabled veteran himself, for his decades of work on behalf of the disabled community. Roberts, along with Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Richard Shelby R-AL), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) all planned to attend the ceremony honoring Dole, but didn’t show up and then voted “no” on the treaty.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. said in a statement about the bill: “It would take a step toward making it easier for disabled Americans to live and work overseas, without impinging on U.S. sovereignty or Congress’ authority to determine our disability laws.” The Republicans senators voting for the measure were Ayotte, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snow of Maine, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona.
Senate Republicans for the most part sent a message with this vote. They made it clear that there party is still largely controlled by the Rick Santorum and Glenn Beck types. However, Senate Republicans seem to have missed the message that the American people sent this past election day. Republicans nominated one of their more moderate candidates in Mitt Romney and still lost. One would figure that would make the Republicans in the Senate rethink their pandering to those who somehow believe these conspiracy theories about American sovereignty being threatened by the United Nations.
Senate Republicans showed their cowardice with their vote on this bill. They had an opportunity to do the right thing and once again failed to do so. Instead, politics and hysteria took precedence. The Republicans in the Senate for the most part turned their back on Bob Dole, the disability community, and the American people.