Dole had been urging members of his party to ratify the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which would grant people with disabilities equal rights in other countries.

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Those supporting the treaty say it’s important for U.S. citizens and veterans with disabilities, who travel, study, do business or reside abroad. Dole himself is a veteran with a disability.

Sen. John KerryJohn KerryKerry: Trump comments on German chancellor ‘inappropriate’ Palestinian leader: Moving Israel embassy could jeopardize peace process UN leader willing to meet lawmakers amid push to cut funding MORE (D-Mass.) pointed out that Dole, who appeared on the floor in a wheelchair, was present despite having been sick in Walter Reed Hospital just last week.

“Certainly he is not here because he doesn’t want to defend the sovereignty of America,” Kerry said of an argument made by those opposing the treaty. “He’s here because he wants other countries to respect the rights of those with disabilities.”

The treaty would ensure that countries ratifying it would work toward equality for persons with disabilities in accessibility, health, education and employment, among others.

Those opposing the treaty argue that it would then potentially change U.S. law on issues, such as aboriton and home schooling.

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who has a disability, also appeared in the Senate chamber to watch the vote. Special Assistant to President Obama, Samantha PowerSamantha PowerLiquidating Kim Dynasty of North Korea UN ambassador warns retreat from group will hurt US interests Cotton: UN's Israel resolution could not have happened without US coordination MORE and other White House officials observed the vote from gallery, but declined to comment after the vote failed.

This article was updated at 12:40 p.m.