Disability Rights Under Attack by Congress
"Everyone is just one bad day away from needing accessible options the #ADA requires to help them get around," tweeted Sen. Tammy Duckworth.
Rights for Americans with disabilities are under attack in a bill disguised as reform of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
HR 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, requires people with disabilities to file a formal complaint with the Justice Department if they are denied access to a public place. The business in question has 60 days to acknowledge the complaint and then another 120 days to make "substantial progress" in correcting the ADA violation. They are not during this time required to actually fix the problem.
Only after this six-month period can people with disabilities take legal action — if the business has made no "substantial progress," a subjective term that means the problem could remain unsolved forever. Businesses are left with no incentive to actually fix the problem — which never should have existed in the first place under the 28-year-old ADA.
No other civil rights statute imposes such requirements. But the House passed the bill 225-192.
Supporters of the bill say it will prevent people from filing frivolous lawsuits against businesses while allowing for a "notice and cure" period.
But defenders of civil rights for people with disabilities say the bill essentially lets businesses off the hook for complying with ADA, which has been in place for nearly three decades — while putting the burden of the real "reform" right on the group whose rights are supposed to be protected.
"The idea that places of public accommodation should receive a free pass for six months before correctly implementing a law that has been a part of our legal framework for nearly three decades creates an obvious disincentive for ADA compliance," Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island said during debate on the House floor.
Langevin, the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress, lives with the reality of a disability each and every day and has since he was 16 years old — before the ADA was enacted.
"Has the Congress really become so divorced from the human experience of the disability community that we're willing to sacrifice their rights because it's easier than targeting the root of the problem? Are people with disabilities, people like me, so easily disregarded?" he said.
Following the vote Langevin said in a statement that "justice delayed is justice denied," adding that he is "saddened that Congress sent a message to people with disabilities that we are not equal, or worthy of the same civil rights protections as others."
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost both her legs while serving as an air assault helicopter pilot in Iraq, posted a series of tweets ahead of the House's passage urging Congress to vote against the measure.
"Ever since I lost my legs when an RPG tore thru the cockpit of my Blackhawk I was flying over Iraq, getting around has been difficult—even w/the #ADA, I can't always enter public spaces & have to spend a lot of time planning how to get frm 1 place to the next," she wrote.
"I understand that not everyone thinks about these things because for most of my adult life I didn't either. But the truth is that everyone is just one bad day away from needing accessible options the #ADA requires to help them get around," she added. "If you don't live with a disability, you might not think of #ADA violations as significant at 1st glance, but I assure you they're significant for those of us who do live with disabilities."
Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and chair of the board of the National Organization on Disability (NOD), also pointed out the negative impact this bill will have on businesses.
"The more than 57 million Americans with disabilities are an important customer base that businesses cannot afford to lose. Further, inaccessible businesses lose out on an enormous talent pool of employees with disabilities," he wrote in an opinion piece for The Hill.
"In my work with the National Organization on Disability, I have had the opportunity to witness firsthand the benefits that leading companies reap from welcoming employees and customers with disabilities. This bill would rob businesses of the customers and the talent they desperately need," he added.
"'Substantial progress' is the same as 'due process' that was used as an endless stall tactic by the South to avoid legally mandatory desegregation," said Luke Visconti, CEO of DiversityInc and vice chairman of the board for NOD.
Indeed, according to Nielsen (No. 32 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity), the power of people with disabilities in the consumer market should not be underestimated: "More than one in three households in the U.S. has a person that identifies with a disability, representing spending power that exceeds $1 billion."
"Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our nation's history and I'm hopeful this measure will swiftly pass the House," Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted.
It's 2019 and lynching still hasn't been properly outlawed. A bill, introduced by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), was cleared on Thursday in the Senate to make lynching a federal crime. The measure will now go to the House. Harris, Booker and Scott are the only Black members of the Senate.
Harris tweeted on Thursday:
BREAKING: Our anti-lynching bill, which would make lynching a federal crime, just unanimously passed the Senate. Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our nation's history and I'm hopeful this measure will swiftly pass the House.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 14, 2019
It's outrageous that lynching still isn't considered a federal crime. Congress tried and failed near 200 times between 1882 to 1986. About to ask the Senate to unanimously pass our anti-lynching bill. Let's right this wrong.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 14, 2019
Congress has tried more than 200 times to pass an anti-lynching law, but has failed. The Senate passed a resolution in 2005, apologizing to lynching victims.
The bipartisan bill acknowledges the harms of lynching, which is a form of domestic terrorism, and the federal government's failure to stop it.
It defines the crime as "the willful act of murder by a collection of people assembled with the intention of committing an act of violence upon any person."
In December, the Senate also passed the bill. But it was days before the 115th Congress went out of business, and the measure never reached the House floor.
"It's not the first time we've come down to this body to try to right the wrongs of history," Booker said on the Senate floor.
"For too long we have failed, failed to ensure justice for the victims of history and failed to make clear in the United States of America, in this great country, lynching is and always has been not only a federal crime but a moral failure."
According to the NAACP, "From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States."
"Of the total, 3,446 of the victims were Black, accounting for approximately 72.7 percent; and 1,297 were white, which is 27.3 percent."
"These numbers seem large, but it is known that not all of the lynchings were ever recorded," the organization stated.
Attacks from right-wing activists and Republicans congressmen continue in what seems to mirror Trump's division and hate tactics.
White Republican men continue to try to discredit and silence women in Congress.
In the latest, a New York Congressman decides Twitter is a place to discuss his lies about Ilhan Omar, a Muslim Congresswoman who he claims is a terrorist sympathizer.
"Like Shirley, I believe that to restore confidence and trust in our institutions and leaders, we need to speak truth," Harris said of Chisholm.
Kamala Harris' announcement on "Good Morning America" on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a stark reminder of what happened 47 years ago this week in a race for the presidency.
Harris is standing on the shoulders of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to run for president, and 10 other Black women.
"This shutdown is about the erosion of American democracy and the subversion of our most basic governmental norms," said Ocasio-Cortez.
King has been stripped of his committee assignments, but is it too little, too late?
U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was stripped of his committee assignments in Congress by House Republicans on Monday evening. It seems the backlash from King's recent remarks on white supremacy and white nationalism finally caused the Republican Party to take action. But why are Republicans now outraged when King has been sharing his racist beliefs for years?
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Anything less than kicking him out of the party and Congress is a "tacit acceptance of racism from the Republican Party," says Rep. Karen Bass.
Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) comments on white supremacy and white nationalism have sparked a call by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to kick him out of government altogether.
"If Republicans really believe these racist statements have no place in our government, then their party must offer more than shallow temporary statements of condemnation," said, CBC Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) in a statement.
"Instead, they must actually condemn Mr. King by removing him from his committee assignments so that he can no longer affect policies that impact the very people he has made it clear he disdains."