Only a day after it barred a visually impaired aide from bringing her guide dog into its chamber, an embarrassed Senate Tuesday reversed course, welcomed the dog and agreed to allow disabled people to bring any “supporting services” they may need onto the Senate floor.
“The Senate is addressing an inequity that placed unnecessary roadblocks in the way of individuals helping us serve the American people in the Senate,” said Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.
Under a resolution introduced by Lott and adopted with unaccustomed alacrity, the Senate authorized its sergeant-at-arms to allow guide dogs and other services into the chamber on a case-by-case basis while the Rules and Administration Committee considers a rules change.
Within a few minutes, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., escorted his nuclear-policy aide, Moira Shea, and her guide dog Beau to the Senate floor. Beau, a large blond Labrador retriever, quickly curled up in the center aisle, head on paw, only a few inches from where Shea sat as Wyden thanked the Senate for its prompt action.
This was a stark contrast to what happened Monday when Wyden asked permission for Shea to bring her dog to the floor, only to have Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., a stickler for strict observance of Senate rules - object by telephone and block the dog’s access.
Wyden protested the dog’s exclusion was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which the Senate had voted to observe as part of broader legislation adopted two years ago to assure Congress abides by the same requirements it imposes on other employers.
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