Bob Dole, former Sen-
ate majority leader and onetime Republican presidential nominee, returned to the Senate floor Tuesday -- now 89 years old and in a wheelchair -- to make a plea for his fellow Republicans to vote for an international treaty to ban discrimination against people with disabilities.
How painful it must have been for the disabled World War II veteran, who championed the Americans With Disabilities Act a generation ago, to watch his request fall on deaf ears in a stunning display of the politics of expediency at the expense of decency.
The Senate vote failed to support the the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signed by the United States in 2009 and already ratified by most other nations, because some Republicans hate and fear the United Nations. The vote was 61 in favor and 38 against; 66 votes were needed to approve it.
The opponents argued 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. They have an overrated view of the U.N.'s power and organizational ability.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., pointed out repeatedly that the treaty was based on the Americans With Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990 under a Republican president, George H.W. Bush. He looked sadly at his old friend Dole, pleading, "Don't let Sen. Bob Dole down."
But the Senate did. All 51 Democrats and two independents voted for the treaty, but only Republicans John McCain of Arizona, a disabled veteran of the Vietnam War, 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 supported it. Lugar, Brown and Snowe will not be in the Senate next year.
More than 165 disabilities advocacy groups have endorsed the treaty, whose provisions largely mirror those that have been law in the United States for more than 20 years. Its rejection, for spurious reasons, is regrettable.