Republicans honor Dole's commitment to disabled people — but blocked protections he sought


A total of 21 current Republican senators voted in 2012 to block an international treaty on rights for people with disabilities.

The Senate unanimously backed a resolution on Monday night honoring the late Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) for his career and his work on behalf of people with disabilities. But its author and 20 of its GOP co-sponsors helped block a major Dole-backed international treaty on disability rights just nine years ago.

The memorial resolution, authored by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and co-sponsored by all 99 other senators, paid tribute to the former Republican National Committee chair, Senate Republican leader, and 1996 GOP presidential nominee for his public service. It specifically praised him as "a life-long advocate for the disabled" who "was instrumental in the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990."

However, back in 2012, the Senate voted on whether to ratify an international treaty based on the Americans with Disabilities Act and, despite Dole's strong support, 38 Senate Republicans voted no, of whom 21 are still serving.

At the time, a wheelchair-bound Dole was on the floor of the Senate, in which he'd served from 1969 to 1996, to witness the vote and implore his colleagues to endorse the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The proposal aimed to "promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity."

All 53 Democratic senators and eight Republicans voted in favor, but the treaty fell short of the 67 senators required for ratification. GOP lawmakers justified their votes against it by pointing to disproven conspiracy theories suggesting that, by ensuring the rights of disabled people, the United States might somehow give up its sovereignty and promote more abortions. Then-Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) called those claims "ridiculous."

Moran's vote against the treaty was especially noteworthy, as months before he had been one of seven senators from both parties who authored a joint press release endorsing its ratification.

A spokesperson for Moran did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

The other GOP senators who opposed the treaty but now are praising Dole's disability work are Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Whip John Thune, and Sens. Roy Blunt (MO), John Boozman (AR), Richard Burr (NC), John Cornyn (TX), Mike Crapo (ID), Lindsey Graham (SC), Chuck Grassley (IA), John Hoeven (ND), Jim Inhofe (OK), Ron Johnson (WI), Mike Lee (UT), Rand Paul (KY), Rob Portman (OH), Jim Risch (ID), Marco Rubio (FL), Richard Shelby (AL), Pat Toomey (PA), and Roger Wicker (MS).

Due to their opposition, the United States has still not ratified the treaty, though 182 countries have ratified or assented to it to date.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.