The ADA Education and Reform Act, also known as House Resolution 620 (HR 620), may have passed the House, but its chances of passing the Senate in 2018 look increasingly slim, as a group of 43 Senators recently expressed opposition.
In a letter written by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and signed by 42 of her colleagues, the Senators express their opposition not just to HR 620, but to “any legislation that would repeal or weaken rights under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
According to Duckworth and her fellow signatories, the ADA was designed with the expectation “that businesses would make themselves accessible before people with disabilities showed up at their place of business, rather than waiting until receiving a notice that people with disabilities have been excluded before starting to think about complying with the law.”
Instead, HR 620 would create a notice-and-cure process, where businesses must first be informed of the alleged violation and given time to remedy before a plaintiff could file a suit under Title III of the ADA. This, the letter claimed, “would destroy any incentive under the ADA for timely removal of architectural barriers in public accommodations.”
Although the senators note that they would support bipartisan legislation to improve ADA compliance, they “strongly object to any time agreement or unanimous consent request with respect to consideration of H.R. 620, or any similar legislation.”
Unanimous consent agreements are often used by the Senate leadership to limit debate on a bill to a specific amount of time or to a specified number of amendments. Absent a unanimous consent agreement or other specific exception such as the reconciliation process, Senate rules only permit time limits to be imposed through a vote for cloture, which requires 60 votes.
By stating that they will not agree to a timing agreement on the bill, the senators have strongly implied—without directly stating—that they would support a filibuster against it. Because the 43 signatories would be enough to defeat a cloture vote, it is highly unlikely HR 620 could pass the Senate before the 2018 midterm elections.
President Trump has, however, repeatedly encouraged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to abolish the filibuster through the so-called “nuclear option.” Such a move could create an opening for HR 620—and other legislation—to pass the Senate by a majority vote.
Duckworth has been a prominent opponent of HR 620, and took to twitter before it passed to encourage her colleagues in the House of Representatives to reject it.
Supporters of #HR620 don’t deny that they’re violating the law—they just resent being sued for “minor” #ADA infractions. But an incline that is “only” a few degrees too steep, or an entrance that is “only” a few inches high, can determine if I’m able to access an area w/out help
— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) February 15, 2018
All of the letter’s signatories are Democrats or independents who caucus with Democrats. Senate Republicans have thus far largely been silent on the bill.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.