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Led by Republican opposition, the Senate on Tuesday rejected a UN treaty on rights of the disabled modeled after the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. With 38 Republicans casting “no” votes, the 61-38 vote fell 5 short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty. The vote took place in an unusually solemn atmosphere, with senators at their desks rather than milling around the podium. Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, looking frail and in a wheelchair, was there to support the treaty.

When you're 89 and just released from Walter Reed 6 days ago, you probably shouldn't go anywhere. But Dole is a fighter, with brain aneurysm surgery and prostate cancer in his past, along with a 10-month hospitalization for pneumonia in 2010. He also took German machine gun fire in WW II and later got 2 Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star. He knows he's now squarely in the shadow of the Reaper. He was there because this treaty was important to him. His wife Elizabeth wheeled him into the well area at the front of the Senate. Kerry and McCain made impassioned speeches urging ratification.

The GOP loves to sign pledges, don't they? In September, 36 senators signed a letter that said there'd be no treaty ratifications during the lame duck session. Supporters rejected the idea it was inappropriate to consider an international treaty in a post-election lame-duck session. Last night, a visibly smoldering Lawrence O'Donnell pointed out that since the 1970s, the Senate had voted to approve treaties 19 times during lame ducks. He called the vote "a day of shame" for the Senate.

“It really isn’t controversial,” Kerry said. “What this treaty says is simple. It just says 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.” Kerry said it was “one of the saddest days I’ve seen in almost 28 years...and it needs to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that’s letting down the American people.”

O'Donnell observed that some of the naysayers would undoubtedly stand before the Senate upon Dole's demise and deliver flowery tributes. But
this was probably an easy one for them. After all, when you've been obstructing the leader of the free world for 4 years, sticking it to an old guy in a wheelchair was probably nothing more than an unremorseful cakewalk.
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