In late summer of 2012 I went to visit Senator Enzi to urge him to support ratification of the CRPD. I thought my job would be easy. I was aware of his efforts for people with disabilities; I counted some of his staff as long time friends; I had educated myself about issues important to him; and some of my time as a committee staffer had overlapped with his first three years in the Senate. And, I had brought him a signed copy of a published thriller, Gradual Descent, I wrote. Word is, Senator Enzi was an avid reader, who reads six books a week. He confirmed that for me when we met. I don't know if he ever read my book, but he sent me a hand-written note of thanks!
He was a gracious listener, but I left his office without a clue about whether he were inclined to support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). We all know he voted nay in December 2012.
Now it is 2014. Senator Enzi is up for re-election this year. On January 6, 2014 Liz Cheney dropped her bid to challenge Senator Enzi. People in Wyoming know Senator Enzi and like him. His Republican colleague from Wyoming, Senator Barrasso, already supports ratification of the CRPD. Senator Barrasso, who is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, can bring Senator Enzi up to speed on the issues that concern Senator Enzi the most -- parents' rights and sovereignty. Senator Barrasso has suggestions from conservative legal scholars, who testified, which address Senator Enzi's concerns.
If you visit Senator Enzi's website -- www.enzi.senate.gov -- and look at issue statements you learn things that may help make him an ally on CRPD:
He and Senator Barrasso cosponsored the Accuracy for Adoptees Act (Dec. 2013). This legislation focuses on parents' ability to change birth certificates with inaccurate information about children they adopted overseas.
He sees small business as the backbone of Wyoming's economy. Many assistive technology entrepreneurs are small businesses.
With regard to education, he strongly endorses the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. One of his comments on education --
"...United States must move faster in order to have a strong economy. American students must have all of the tools they need to complete a higher education and to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to become and remain competitive in a 21st century economy. Strong partnerships and alignment among K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, businesses, and government will help meet that need. I am working to find ways to encourage students to stay in school and prepare for and enter high-skill fields such as math, science, engineering, health, technology and critical foreign languages."
In his issue statement on foreign relations he leads with this sentence -- "The ever-increasing interdependency of the world requires that we maintain a strong voice in the world community." Later, he highlight some international initiatives to assist people in developing countries become more self-sufficient.
Finally, Senator Enzi, in his issue statement on veterans affairs, points out there are two large Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Wyoming. So, I am sure he has experience with and would welcome more conversations with vets with disabilities.
Any of these selected facts about Senator Enzi could be the start of a conversation and the foundation for shifting to talking about ratification of the CRPD.
Senator Enzi was born in 1944. So, in addition to being especially interested in securing votes from his constituents, I bet he is also interested in his legacy and making a potential next term really count. Being for opportunity, freedom, disability rights, and a safer, brighter future where the United States stands tall are surely on Senator Enzi's short list. As the leading Republican on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, where the Americans with Disabilities Act was born, he can help us get the votes we need. We need to talk to him now.
His contact information:
Washington D.C.: 202.224.3424
Toll free: 888.250.1879