27th Anniversary of the ADA

As the the sun sets here in the West, we extend our thanks to Senator Bob Casey for supporting liberty and freedom for Americans with Disabilities on the 27th Anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We’ll rise on July 27, and continue to work with you and our fellow advocates to defend access to health care for millions of Americans.

Today, July 26, Senate Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) offered a Motion to Commit to strike provisions in the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 that would harm individuals with disabilities as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 by reducing our “access to affordable health care or limiting coverage or benefits under Medicaid or in the private health insurance market.”

A transcript of Senator Casey’s remarks, as presented, is provided below.

The Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund thanks Senator Casey for his commitment to liberty and freedom for disabled Americans during the debate over health care on this important anniversary.

Contact Senator Casey and his staff and thank them for their support using the following address and phone number:

Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. (D – PA)
393 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-6324
Internet: www.casey.senate.gov/contact/

Transcript of Speech by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) on the floor of the United States Senate
Delivered: July 26, 2017

“The Americans with Disabilities Act is 27 years old today.”

It is a piece of legislation that both recognizes and guarantees the rights of people with disabilities. It is, at its heart, a Civil Rights bill. One that promotes and promises liberty and freedom for people with disabilities. The liberty and freedom that all Americans are promised, that our founding documents guarantee and that we in the Senate are charged with protecting for all citizens.  We should be celebrating…

“We should be celebrating the liberty and freedom of people with disabilities but instead of having a celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act on this anniversary day, the Senate Republican bill, basically the House bill that we’re on right now … threatens freedom, threatens that liberty that was accorded in the Americans with Disabilities Act with regard to those with disabilities.”

Now I’ve heard a lot of speeches on this floor by Republican colleagues about fredom and liberty in the context of health care. Lots of speeches about both of those words. But I would argue that if you consider this legislation and the Senate versions of it that came after the House bill, all of these Republican health care bills, were really simply about decimating Medicaid, limiting community based care, cutting long-term services and support that will rob people with disabilities of their rights that the Americans with Disabilities Act advanced.

I think everyone here knows the disabilities story… I’ll just do a quick summary: For centuries people with disabilities have been placed, against their will, in institutions like this one. This is a building in Pennsylvania that when it was open and operating, it was known as Pennhurst. But there were lots of places like this across the country not just in one or two states. These institutions were, in fact, over time, warehouses where people had few, if any rights. They were told what time to wake up, what time to go to bed, what time to eat and and when to eat and they were told they could never leave. That was the basic set of rules that they lived by when they lived in institutions like that. These were places where choice was unknown, where freedom, liberty, and self-determination were also unknown.

Senator Bob Casey on the Senate floor pointing at a photo of an institutionOver the past 50 years we’ve made some improvements – slow improvements – over time. With voices of people with disabilities leading the way. Throughout those 50 years, individuals and families have fought for their freedom and have worked to create laws that protect their freedom. For example, the 1973 Rehabilitation Act Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act affirmed and protected the rights of people with disabilities to have access to all of society.

The 1999 Olmstead Supreme Court decision reaffirmed the right of people with disabilities to live where they want to live, to be free of the confines of an institution.

Senator Bob CaseyLet’s bring it from an institution down to the individual. Individuals like Jensen, pictured right here, who were once forced to live in a nursing home now live where they want to live and pursue their dreams.

Mr. President, we know that…

“Rights alone don’t equal freedom and liberty for people with disabilities. Medicaid – Medicaid provides the supports necessary to live in the community – to have that full measure of freedom and that full measure of choice. Medicaid protects the hard-won rights of people with disabilities to have real choices. Medicaid home and community-based supports mean that people with disabilities can live in their own apartments, hold jobs and contribute to their communities. Medicaid makes it possible to use the talentsand skills and knowledge of people with disabilities. Medicaid makes their rights a reality.”

Don’t take my word for it, just ask the people who were here today in the gallery, people outside this chamber, walking the halls of the Senate, walking throughout buildings, marching and demonstrating and greeting people on the street. Some of them staying overnight at one place to make their voice heard.

Ask the members of ADAPT, ask the members of the National Council of Independent Living, the 700 ARC affiliates around the country, ask the folks from Easter Seals, and the University Centers on Disabilities and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and on and on and on, groups across the country who are telling us with one voice – DON’T MOVE FORWARD WITH CUTS TO MEDICAID as has been proposed in each of these bills. These Americans will tell you that their rights aren’t real without community support.

This bill will drive people back into those institutions that I just showed you a picture of. Now, I know that there’s talk that maybe in the midst of voting on my amendment, which would basically say “Let’s go back to the committee of jurisdiction” in this case the finance committee, and let’s go back to that committee and spend some time, have some hearings, have some regular order, which some have called for here, and really consider this issue seriously. But instead of that, I guess some will reject my amendment and they are going to introduce and maybe have a vote on a sense of the Senate.

Now, there’s a time and a place for that kind of measure when the Senate speaks with one voice on a matter. This is not one of those times. This is a time we have to do more than just have a sense of the Senate. We have to be serious about a particular matter on a public policy. In this case we need to make sure we protect people with disabilities so they have all the rights, all the promises fulfilled in Americans with Disabilities Act and other legislation as well.

So we’re hearing there might be a sense of the Senate being offered as a “side by side” to the amendment that I will offer. This is totally inadequate in terms of the serious issue that we’re here to talk about, in this case protecting people with disabilities. It is a totally inadequate response to that.

The people with disabilities who are in the gallery here, or in the reception area, who are back at home in Congressional districts and states. Those folks in each and every community around the country want to ensure that the promise we made to them in the ADA and in other measures will be kept, that we keep our promise.

“If Medicaid community-based services are slashed, statements by the Senate won’t help very much.”

Now, what do we have in front of us? What we will likely have in front of us in the next couple of hours, or between today and tomorrow, I know it has been described a couple of ways if Republicans want to get there. Here’s how i describe it — It’s a congressional republican scheme that they are working on to get to repeal — not repeal and replace. In in case it would be repeal and decimate, decimating medicaid, repealing the entire patient protection and affordable care act.

Now, some here will argue that they can support this because this next version, this scheme, will not include Medicaid and will likely not even include tax cuts for the very wealthy. Well, cuts to Medicaid have been the core of every version of every House bill and every … Senate bill that we’ve seen so far. So they will get to those cuts one way or another. And they will also get to the tax cuts for the super rich.

The bill that we are debating, HR1628, as you know creates block grants in the context of Medicaid… Block granting may be, in a sense, sending to the states a limited amount of money. And saying “Good Luck” when you have to balance your budget and pay for Medicaid services. It will have per capita caps which would, again, limit whatstates can do in terms of the dollars they have or it would just to have, as every bill has had, cuts to Medicaid, the likes of which we have never seen. Sometimes over $800 billion, sometimes over $700 billion, but in that neighborhood of hundreds and hundreds of billions of cuts to Medicaid.  The next version of the Senate bill will do the same.

So when you consider the cuts to Medicaid juxtaposed with the tax breaks given to the super rich, really giveaways… There is no other word I can come up with other than obscene. There are probably other words, but that’s a good description of what that is. That’s one of the reasons why these measures have been so unpopular across the board with every income group. Those folks who would get those big giveaways, I think most would not want them—if they knew the price of that tax giveaway to somebody with a lot of money—would be to decimate Medicaid.

So passing these — this version of the bills, passing a scaled scaled-down scheme means that Republicans have not abandoned their Medicaid cuts. They’re going to get to that as soon as they can. So this is simply really what we’re going to see over the next couple of hours, simply a backdoor to cutting and capping Medicaid. And anyone who believes otherwise is probably deceiving themselves.

“What we need is serious policies crafted to ensure long-term supports and services that provide and guarantee community-based services, which promotes choice and freedom for people with disabilities. This bill doesn’t promise freedom or liberty. It doesn’t promise the choice to live in a community and to be part of a family… where one member of that family has a disability and gets to live in a house with other members of the family. That is not possible for many Americans without Medicaid. For people with disabilities, this bill is anything but a bill that would enhance freedom or enhance choice. This bill would, in fact, be an anti-freedom bill when it comes to people with disabilities.”

It’s not a key to liberty. It’s really just a pathway to institutional care where we were years ago, where we have come from, from whence we’ve made progress. It’s a return to limited choices, a lack of rights, and a place where freedom is not possible.

So, Mr. President, let me, in conclusion, thank the members of the Senate who have supported this amendment. The following Senators… Senators Stabenow, Duckworth, Hassan, Van Hollen, Murray, Brown, Blumenthal, Carper, Durbin, Kaine, Baldwin, Wyden, Markey, Murphy, Harris, Cardin, Warren, Hirono, Reed, Nelson, Klobuchar, Warner, Shaheen, Coons, Bennet, King, Menendez, Whitehouse, Leahy, and Booker. I want to thank them for joining me in this effort.