Sensenbrenner Statement on ADA Bill
Sep 17, 2008 -
Earlier today, the House of Representatives passed by voice vote S.3406, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, which is nearly identical to the House version of the bill sponsored by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). Sensenbrenner made the following statement on the House floor in support of the legislation:
“In 1990, a bipartisan Congress took significant steps to break down the physical and societal barriers that for far too long kept disabled Americans from fully participating in the American dream. Today, the House takes the final step towards righting the wrongs that courts have made in their interpretation of this landmark law.
“It has been a long road to finally reach this point. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee last Congress, I first introduced this bill with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Although the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill in 2006, it was too late in the legislative session to move the bill, but that bill marked our intent and promise to tackle this issue in the 110th Congress.
“Last year, on the ADA’s anniversary, Leader Hoyer and I introduced the bill again. The purpose of this legislation is to restore the intent of Congress to cover a broad group of individuals with disabilities under the ADA, and to eliminate the problem of courts focusing too heavily on whether individuals were covered by the law, rather than on whether discrimination occurred. We worked with advocates from the disability community and business interests over the past year to craft a balanced bill with bipartisan support.
“President Ronald Reagan once noted, "There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit." That statement rings true about negotiations with this bill. Interest groups that did not see eye-to-eye at the outset worked diligently over many months. After intense discussions, they came to a compromise that both sides could support.
“The bill we pass today will restore the full meaning of equal protection under the law and all the promises that our Nation has to offer. As Members are well-aware by now, the Supreme Court has slowly chipped away at the broad protections of the ADA and has created a new set of barriers for disabled Americans. The Court’s rulings currently exclude millions of disabled Americans from the ADA’s protections—the very citizens that Congress expressly sought to include within the scope of the Act in 1990.
“The impact of these decisions is such that disabled Americans can be discriminated against by their employers because of their conditions—but they are not considered disabled enough by our federal courts to invoke the protections of the ADA. This is unacceptable. Today’s vote will enable disabled Americans utilizing the ADA to focus on the discrimination that they have experienced rather than having to first prove that they fall within the scope of the ADA’s protection.
“The ADA has been one of the most effective civil rights laws passed by Congress. I encourage my colleagues to vote in favor of the ADA Amendments Act, and I yield back the balance of my time.”