According to Senator Dean Heller, a Republican and junior senator from Nevada, he and Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island met at a bipartisan dinner and became friends. One thing that probably drew them together was the fact that their states have the highest unemployment rates in the country. On December 17, 2013 Senator Reed introduced S. 1845 to extend unemployment insurance until May 2014 (retroactively to December 2013, when the unemployment insurance expired). Senator Heller was the first Republican cosponsor. On April 7, 2014, S.1845 was passed by the Senate on a vote of 59 to 38. Senators Ayotte, Collins, Kirk, and Portman, Republicans, voted yea, which helped the vote count reach 59 in favor of the legislation. So obviously these senators are in a good mood, a bipartisan mood.
I have a suggestion. Why not ask Senators Reed, Ayotte, Collins, and Kirk, all on the record supporting ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to speak to Senator Heller about it. They could share with Senator Heller that most veterans' organizations support ratification. They could point out that many corporations that develop technology also support ratification. These two facts should resonate with Senator Heller. He is on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. I could not find any record of Senator Heller having specific substantive objections to ratification of the CRPD.
In the press conference following the Senate vote on S. 1845 Senator Heller was very gracious toward and complementary of his Democrat colleague, Senator Reed. He doesn't appear to have sharp edges. He clearly came to the Senate to get things done, be responsive to his voters, and not to block things. In fact, since Speaker Boehner of the House of Representatives does not support the extension of unemployment insurance, Senators Heller and Reed were successful in getting their Republican governors to write to the Speaker, indicating their strong support of S. 1845. This suggests that Senator Heller has a keen sense of momentum, a clear understanding of congressional process, and an appreciation for timing and strategic pressure.
If Republican Senators, who support the CRPD, WITH HELP FROM US could encourage Senator Heller to join the pro-CRPD side of the ledger we would have a powerful ally in the Senate. He could become an emissary to other Republicans who have not yet decided to support the CRPD. On a periodic basis he could give Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader in the Senate who controls the calendar (e.g., when Senate floor votes are scheduled), who is also from Nevada, an accurate count of how much support there is among Republican Senators. What Senator Heller shares with Senator Reid would have a lot of validity.
One final point about Senator Heller, he is on the Senate committees that have jurisdiction over housing and transportation. These two issues are very important to people with disabilities. If we are successful in making Senator Heller our ally on the CRPD, we may be making a genuine friend who can help us with other issues in the future. And, another final thought, since Senator Portman (OH) joined in voting for S. 1845, if Senator Heller joins us in the CRPD, he can go with his other colleagues who made S. 1845 happen, and visit with Senator Portman on the CRPD.
Here is Senator Heller's contact information.
Washington DC: 202.224.6244
Las Vegas: 702.388.6605
We know we have to do. Now let's do it.