POLITICS

Sen. Tammy Duckworth Slams Jeff Sessions' Disability Rights Record

She questioned his fitness to be attorney general on the eve of Senate confirmation hearings.

01/09/2017 05:24 pm ET

WASHINGTON ― A day before Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-Ala.) Senate confirmation hearing to be Donald Trump’s attorney general, newly elected Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Monday expressed concern about his fitness for the post.

Duckworth, a veteran who lost her legs in the Iraq War, questioned Trump’s selection of Sessions, when the Americans With Disabilities Act already appears to be under attack. “I personally am deeply concerned that at a time when the ADA protections seem to be eroding that we’re nominating someone who has less than a stellar record when it comes to comments made in support of disability rights,” she told The Huffington Post.

Duckworth, who served two terms in the House before winning election to the Senate in November, knows from personal experience how federal law can help individuals succeed.

“The ADA provides the basic protections that allow me to do this job. I mean if it weren’t for the ADA I probably be stuck at home and unable to work,” Duckworth said. “But because the ADA exists, I’m able to have a productive life and be a tax paying citizen.” Everyone, she said, was one bad car crash away from being in need of the ADA.

Duckworth said her concern about Sessions’ nomination stemmed from his 2012 stance against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In a 2000 Senate floor speech, recently reported by The Huffington Post, Sessions complained that a law that protected children with disabilities in schools had led to the downfall of the education system.

“We have created a complex system of federal regulations and laws that have created lawsuit after lawsuit, special treatment for certain children, and that are big factor in accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all over America. I say that very sincerely,” Sessions said at the time.

Sessions, when he was Alabama attorney general in the mid-1990s, fought a lawsuit brought by nearly 30 of the state’s poorest schools. The schools argued they didn’t have the same resources as others in the state, affecting their ability to integrate special-needs students.

“It is troubling to me that we have a nominee who has a record of not supporting basic access for people with disabilities whether they’re adults or children,” Duckworth said.

Duckworth said she hasn’t decided on whether she will support Sessions’ nomination. “I want him to get a fair hearing, but I also want to make it clear that I have some deep reservations about him being nominated.”

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