Bob Dole, the longtime U.S. senator from Kansas and an architect of the Americans with Disabilities Act, made an appeal to members of his former chamber this week, asking that they ratify a United Nations treaty on disabilities.

The Congress of today, however, is far different than the one in which Dole earned a reputation as a bridge-builder who could bring opposing sides together on important issues.

Instead of ratifying a treaty that would recognize people with disabilities to live with equal rights, the Senate waited until the frail, 89-year-old Dole was wheeled out of the chamber and then rejected his plea by raising imaginary issues about how the treaty would interfere with U.S. sovereignty.

Even Kansas’ Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts voted against the treaty, which came up short of the two-thirds majority required on a 61-38 vote Tuesday. In May, Moran joined Arizona Sen. John McCain in praising the treaty but wouldn’t talk to anyone about his change of heart after the Tuesday vote.

Approval of the treaty — formally titled the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities — would have given the U.S. a lead position in ensuring that other countries work to end discrimination against people with disabilities. In essence, it aims to bring the treatment of disabled people more in line with the United States, under the ADA — on which the treaty was modeled. Its approval would have added the clout of the United States and spurred other countries to emulate America’s model for the treatment of people with disabilities.

Instead, Senate conservatives voted on an irrational fear that approval would allow the U.N. to circumvent our laws and courts and impose some made-up law inside our borders. It is a fear that borders on lunacy. Nothing in the treaty allows that sort of international interference, and its findings are non-binding. For safe measure, the treaty contains an “out” clause that can be executed at any time for any reason.

Perhaps most perplexing is the fact that this treaty is not new: It was originally negotiated and signed by President George W. Bush in 2006 and again by President Obama in 2009. Tuesday’s vote was nothing more than a recommitment to a treaty the U.S. ratified six years ago.

The Republicans who voted against this treaty should hang their heads in shame, but none more than Kansas’ own Moran and Roberts. Both senators, who haven’t been shy in the past about offering praise for Dole’s storied service in the Senate, showed that they lack Dole’s sense of purpose and statesmanship.

“He has his beliefs and fought for them, but at the end of the day the goal was to advance the cause of governing,” Moran said at a ceremony honoring Dole in 2008. “It’s now rare.”

Yes it is rare indeed, senator.

— The Hutchinson News