Former Senator Bob Dole, 89 years old and in a wheelchair, went onto to the floor of the Senate today to urge his former colleagues to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. Mr. Dole, a disabled veteran, has been one of the leading voices urging ratification of the treaty, which seeks to bring the world closer to the high standard set by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark civil-rights law enacted under President George H.W. Bush.
One by one, according to Roll Call, the senators approached Mr. Dole to pat his shoulder or clasp his hand, making gestures of respect for the man who was for many years the Republican majority leader.
Then he was wheeled away, and all but a handful of the Republicans bailed out on him. The treaty failed. It needed a two-thirds vote to pass, or 67 votes, and fell six short.
So much for America's support of a global agreement "to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities."
The vote was a triumph for Glenn Beck, Rick Santorum and others on the hard-right loon fringe, who have been feverishly denouncing the treaty as a United Nations world-government conspiracy to kill disabled children (you can look it up).
Only eight Republicans voted yes: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona.
Several Republicans who might have made a difference but voted "no," as Roll Call pointed out, are up for re-election in 2014 and are facing possible primary challenges from the right: Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who changed his "yes" to a "no" after it was obvious the treaty would fail.
Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement after the vote: "This is one of the saddest days I've seen in almost 28 years in the Senate, and it needs to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that's letting down the American people."
He added: "Today the dysfunction hurt veterans and the disabled, and that's unacceptable. This treaty was supported by every veterans group in America and Bob Dole made an inspiring and courageous personal journey back to the Senate to fight for it. It had bipartisan support, and it had the facts on its side, and yet for one ugly vote, none of that seemed to matter. We won't give up on this and the Disabilities Treaty will pass because it's the right thing to do, but today I understand better than ever before why Americans have such disdain for Congress and just how much must happen to fix the Senate so we can act on the real interests of our country."