This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," July 26, 2005, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Fifteen years ago today, the government did something to help Americans with disabilities. And, today, President Bush was joined by his dad, who signed the original bill. That was when it was signed into law. But, today, does that law go far enough?
Let's ask Iowa Democrat Senator Tom Harkin. Senator, you are concerned. Tell me why.
SEN. TOM HARKIN, D-IOWA: Well, as you know, it's my name on the bill. I was the chief sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act and was chairman of the committee when we got it through. And I was very proud when President Bush signed it into law 15 years ago. We have come a long way. I mean, I call it a quiet revolution in 15 years. You go around. You see curb cuts. You see ramps. You see widened doors, bathroom stalls. You see a lot of things. Buses, they're all accessible now.
So, we have come a long way. But one thing remains. Over 60 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed. That's still a national disgrace.
CAVUTO: So, is it that some court decisions have actually come down and restricted some of the areas that this law first intended? Are you concerned that the Disabilities Act itself has been watered down over the years?
HARKIN: Well, I think the courts have misinterpreted the congressional intent when we passed it, and we may have to come back and do something legislatively on this.
CAVUTO: Wait. Wait a minute. That's an interesting point. So, you're arguing that the court, since it seems to have abandoned some of the key provisions of this, that, legislatively, what would you revisit? What would specifically you do?
HARKIN: Well, first of all, the court has made a funny decision in terms of disability, that, if, in fact you have a device or something that helps you get over your disability, then you're not disabled. But you really are disabled. And so we have to clear that up. I don't think just because you're able to use a device, that that means you still don't have a disability. You still do. And I think that we need to clear that up for the courts.
CAVUTO: I think the concern was as well, Senator, that some might be looking at this as sort of like affirmative action, that it required employers then to gear toward hiring X-number of wheelchair-bound employees, that sort of a thing. How do you separate individuals who might feel that this is really just affirmative action in a wheelchair, to be crass about it?
HARKIN: There's nothing affirmative action, but there is a mandate in the Americans With Disabilities Act that employers have to make reasonable accommodations, reasonable accommodations, for people with disabilities, so they can work.
But, Neil, as long as we're on this topic, I must say that the two biggest drawbacks we have right now are the lack of personal assistant services for people with disabilities, so they can get to work and have a job. And the second are the Medicaid laws. Do you know right now Medicaid must pay for you if you are in a nursing home or an institution? They have to pay for your room and board, your nursing care and everything. But if want to live in a community on your own and have that kind of services, Medicaid doesn't have to pay for it. And so, we have a lot of people in this country still in institutions who really out to be ought in the community.
CAVUTO: All right, let me ask you very quickly, Senator. Judge Roberts, the next pick for the Supreme Court, he has ruled with companies on a lot of these types of issues. As things stand now, are you going to vote for him?
HARKIN: Well, I don't know. I don't know that much about him. I am concerned about his position on the Americans With Disabilities Act. I'm not on the Judiciary Committee, but I'm having friends of mine ask him questions. I'd like to draw him out a little bit on this, to find out how he feels about it and what he thinks about our ability to enact such a law.
CAVUTO: Where are you leaning?
HARKIN: Well, I don't lean one way or the other now, because I just don't know enough about this guy. I honestly don't. But I want to know what his concept is and how he feels about the Americans With Disabilities Act and Congress' power to enact such legislation, because...
CAVUTO: Senator, let me ask you, if you don't mind delving into politics a little bit...
CAVUTO: I remember when you in the earlier Iowa Caucus decided to back Howard Dean. And Senator Kerry was upset. What is the relationship with you and Senator Kerry now? I know a lot of water has crossed under that bridge.
HARKIN: Well, I think our relationship is excellent, always has been, always will be. I have a great deal of friendship and respect for Senator Kerry. I gave him a full head's up when I at that time endorsed Howard Dean. He knew about it. We maintained contact through the whole process.
CAVUTO: How would Senator Kerry do running again in your state?
HARKIN: Well, I think Senator Kerry will always do well. He's a bright, capable individual. Keep in mind, he got more Democratic votes than anyone else who has ever run for president. And he almost...
CAVUTO: Could he beat Hillary Clinton in your state?
HARKIN: Oh, listen, you're asking me to handicap my friends. These are my friends. I'm not going to handicap that. I think we're going to have a spirited contest. And may the best person win.
But right now, today, I want to focus on the Americans With Disabilities Act and to make sure that people all across this country know that we have come a long way in reaching out and making our country fairer and better and more just and breaking down barriers. And we can't go backwards. We have got to keep going forwards. We have got a lot of soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who are going to have lifetime injuries. I want to make sure that they have good jobs, that they have good supportive services so that they, too, can be a part of our society.
CAVUTO: All right. Senator Harkin, thank you.
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