Iowa Senator Tom Harkin said today he will vote against the nomination of John Roberts for Supreme Court Chief Justice. Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Harkin, a democrat, says he questions whether Roberts will uphold the Americans with Disabilities Act that Harkin helped author. Harkin says in the hearings, in Judge Roberts’ writings and in a meeting with him, he didn’t find signs that Roberts understands the role courts play in protecting the civil rights of Americans, and allowing those who’ve suffered discrimination to seek their rights in the federal courts.
Since the enactment of the ADA, Harkin says the court has questioned over and over again whether Congress has the constitutional power to make states comply with the federal law. He says the rulings even questioned whether Congress has documented that there’s discrimination against the handicapped. Harkin gave examples of rulings for and against handicapped-access rules, noting many federal-court decisions on the topic contradict each other. He says without a Supreme Court that applies the rule across-the-board, the ADA has little effect.
Harkin says “we could end up with a crazy patchwork, where courthouses are accessible but maybe libraries are not — perhaps prisons are accessible but maybe employment offices are not.” Harkin says when Congress passed the ADA, it didn’t ban discrimination against the disabled “unless they work for the state,” as one court ruling found.
Harkin says when they passed the bill, Congress didn’t say some services must be accessible, but he says that’s what the courts have ruled. Harkin says, “Talk about judicial activism!” Iowa’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Charles Grassley, is expected to vote for Roberts’ nomination.