Senate

Duckworth: Republican coronavirus package would 'gut' Americans With Disabilities Act

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), the first disabled woman elected to the Senate, slammed Senate Republicans' coronavirus relief proposal in a floor speech Wednesday evening, saying it would "gut" the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Duckworth invoked the "Capitol Crawl" by wheelchair users lobbying for the 1990 legislation, including eight-year-old Jennifer Keelan, who was heard to say "I'll take all night if I have to."

"Thirty years ago this legislative body said people like me mattered, but last week the Republicans in this chamber proposed a bill that said that we don't," Duckworth said.

The Illinois senator called on her GOP colleagues to "join Democrats in supporting two measures that would show the disability community that their party actually gives a darn about them."

First, Duckworth called on Republicans to increase Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentages (FMAP)  by 10 percent for Medicaid home- and community-based services. The alternative, she said, would force disabled people into high-risk congregate care facilities.

"We know from existing data that Americans with intellectual and development disabilities are killed at far higher rates than any other Americans when infected with COVID9, so investing in state efforts to provide Medicaid services to vulnerable populations in the safety of their own homes is just a common sense policy that would save countless lives," she said.

Second, she called on Republicans to reject any proposals that allow businesses to implement non-ADA-compliant reopening plans.

"Disability rights are human rights, and these civil rights must never become optional benefits that can be taken away whenever it's convenient or cheaper for employers and those who are in power," she said.

"Allowing businesses to exclude employees with disabilities from reopening plans is exactly the kind of discrimination the ADA sought to abolish, yet the GOP's HEALS Act seeks to relegate millions of Americans back to second class status, sending the offensive message that our community can be cast aside if the costs to companies are too high," Duckworth added.

"No one is asking for special treatment, what we are asking for is to not take away those basic rights the Constitution promised all those centuries ago and this chamber affirmed three decades ago under a Republican president."

Duckworth, an Army veteran who lost both legs in a helicopter crash in Iraq, has been floated as a potential vice president for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

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