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Bush ‘never, ever wavered’ in supporting the Americans with Disabilities Act, Harkin recalls

December 6, 2018 GMT

WASHINGTON — Former Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, joined a group of people with disabilities this week in the Capitol rotunda where George H.W. Bush was lying in state.

As he gazed at the casket, Harkin thought back to his work with the 41st president on the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act.

“He never, ever wavered in his support for that,” Harkin told The World-Herald.

And Harkin shared a story from a time when he was working to get the ADA through Congress but was running into hurdles.

It was a Friday in the spring of 1990, he said, when his assistant notified him that the White House had just called to invite the senator over for evening cocktails.


First lady Barbara Bush was gone, apparently, and the president wanted to have Harkin and a few other guys over for martinis that evening.

Harkin said the president was very gracious, giving them a tour of the residence and visiting with them.

When it came time to leave, Harkin said he couldn’t resist telling Bush that while the president himself and some aides were doing important work to push the ADA, Chief of Staff John Sununu kept throwing wrenches into the process.

Harkin said Bush turned to aide C. Boyden Gray and told Gray that he wanted him to make sure that bill got to his desk. And he did.

The senator also reiterated something he’s said previously about Bush.

Harkin said that American schoolchildren of the future will read about how President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and about all that Martin Luther King Jr. did in the civil rights movement.

“And they’ll also read about (a) self-effacing Texan by the name of George H.W. Bush, who as president broke down the walls of discrimination against people with disabilities in America,” Harkin said.