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Bob Dole Was a ‘Pivot’ in Passing the Americans With Disabilities Act


“Bringing up the costs does not mean that I support discrimination against people with disabilities,” he noted at a committee hearing, where he argued that it was necessary to consider the costs of the bill and what something could be done to reduce it.

At the time the ADA was introduced, Mr. Dole was pressured by other Republican senators to draft his own competing bill, according to Maureen West, the legislative aide who advised him on disability issues. In his testimony at the time, Mr. Dole said he supported the bill’s draft, but expressed concern that it would create an unreasonable burden on businesses and “cause a flood of unnecessary lawsuits.”

But after hearing from dozens of people with disabilities, Mr. Dole, then the Senate minority leader, decided to support the ADA

“It just made him rethink the importance and momentum behind this bill at the time,” Ms West said. “I walked out with him, he was pretty quiet and he said, ‘We have to make this bill happen.'”

Without Mr. Dole, several proponents said, the ADA might never have been passed. Or that, at the very least, passage would have been considerably more difficult.

“Dole was our linchpin for Republicans,” said former Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and one of the lawmakers who introduced the ADA. the bill to address these concerns. He also helped businesses sell on the account by framing it as an investment they could make to acquire a new customer base.

Mr. Dole’s involvement led to important provisions in the bill, Mr. Harkin said, such as requiring accommodations to be “reasonable” so that a business wouldn’t go bankrupt as a result of ADA compliance, and tax credits that cost small amounts of money. companies helped to pay. for the costs of placing housing.

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