GOP lawmakers oppose reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act
Republican lawmakers, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley, are blocking the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) over what they called “controversial provisions”
Although VAWA has received strong bipartisan support since its introduction in 1994, all 8 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against the law’s reauthorization. Without Congressional approval, funding for domestic violence victims support programs and law enforcement efforts to prosecute violent abusers could be at risk.
Recounting her experiences as a rape victim, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) explained why she reintroduced the VAWA reauthorization bill last week:
“Violence against women is as American as apple pie. And I know not only as a legislator but from my own personal experience… When this bill came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with all of the Republican senators – all of the guys vote no – it really brought up some terrible memories for me of having, you know, boys sitting in a locker room and sort of bet that I – the ‘A’ kid – couldn’t be had. And then the appointed boy, when he saw that I wasn’t going to be so willing, completed a date rape and then took my underwear to display it to the rest of the boys. I mean, this is what American women are facing.”
Though VAWA has been widely credited for reducing domestic violence rates around the country, a 2011 survey by the Center for Disease Control reported that more than 12 million Americans are still raped, physically abused, or stalked by their intimate partner every year. CDC estimated that nearly 1 in 5 American women are raped in their lifetime and nearly 1 in 4 women are beaten by their partner.
Both the Senate and House VAWA bills would step up efforts to prevent, report, and prosecute sexual assaults as well as expand VAWA’s protection to underserved populations, including Native American women, LGBT individuals, ethnic and religious minorities, and immigrants. These underserved groups suffer higher rates of domestic violence and sexual assaults than their white counterparts.
For example, researchers have found that 3 out of 5 Native American women have been assaulted by their husband or domestic partner; and 1 out of 3 Native American women will be raped in their lifetime. Since nearly half of those assaults are committed by non-Native American men, VAWA would expand “federal law enforcement tools and [recognize] limited concurrent tribal jurisdiction to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence non-Indian persons who assault Indian spouses, intimate partners, or dating partners” in tribal territory. Senate Republicans objected to this provision, fearing that tribal criminal justice systems would not provide adequate due process or civil rights guarantees for non-Indian suspects.
Another key provision in VAWA would expand protection for immigrants who are afraid to report domestic and sexual abuse because of their undocumented status. The VAWA reauthorization bill would give law enforcement and immigration officials a little more flexibility in granting U visas for undocumented victims. Senate Republicans claimed that this provision would open the floodgate for immigration fraud. “We cannot allow laws intended to prevent such abuse to be manipulated as a pathway to U.S. citizenship for foreign con artists and criminals,” wrote Senators Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Jon Kyl, and John Cornyn.
VAWA would also redirect funding to provide more culturally specific victim support programs for ethnic and religious minorities that are “reluctant to turn to traditional domestic violence programs” and are “less likely to receive all the services they need.” Senate Republicans opposed this provision, arguing that “if every group is a priority, no group is a priority.” They maintained that there is insufficient data to ensure that Congress isn’t “wasting money” on “so many new programs for underserved populations.”
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted against S. 1925 to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act:
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
- Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)
- Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
- Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
- Sen. Michael S. Lee (R-Utah)
- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
Transcript of Rep. Gwen Moore’s floor statement on H.R. 4271 on March 28, 2012:
“I urge my colleagues to vote no on the previous question to allow us to vote on the Violence Against Women Act.
“You know, it is pathetic and it is disappointing that we – it’s come to this. We have to use a procedural shenanigans [sic] to talk about an initiative that has been a bipartisan initiative since 1994.
“Violence against women in this country is not levied against just Democrats but Republicans as well. Not blacks or whites or Hispanics but against native people as well. Not just Christians or Muslims and Jews but non-religious people – atheists. Not just rich people or poor people but middle-class people. And not just against heterosexual women but homosexual couples. It knows no gender. It knows no ethnicity. It knows nothing.
“And I’ll tell you: violence against women is as American as apple pie. And I know not only as a legislator but from my own personal experience.
“Violence – domestic violence – has been a thread throughout my personal life, up to and including being a child repeatedly sexually assaulted, up to and including being an adult who has been raped. I just don’t have enough time to share all those experiences with you.
“But I can tell you that when this bill came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with all of the Republican senators – all of the guys vote no – it really brought up some terrible memories for me of having, you know, boys sitting in a locker room and sort of bet that I – the ‘A’ kid – couldn’t be had. And then the appointed boy, when he saw that I wasn’t going to be so willing, completed a date rape and then took my underwear to display it to the rest of the boys. I mean, this is what American women are facing.
“And I am so proud to be an author of this amendment because it has been in the past a bipartisan bill, which this bill will strengthen the core programs to support law enforcement, prosecutions, and judicial staff training.
“It will include new initiatives aimed at preventing domestic violence-related homicides that occur every single day in this country.
“It would extend authority to protect Native American victims on tribal lands.
“It would ensure a strong response to insufficient reporting and services for victims of sexual assault.
“It would increase the number of ‘U’ visas for undocumented women who, because of they’re in the shadows, are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence.
“And this bill would expand services for under-served communities – those that due to their religion or gender or sexual orientation have not been served.
“This is not a partisan issue. And it would be very, very devastating to women of all colors, creeds, and sexual orientations for us not to address this.”
- Thomas.LOC.gov: S. 1925 “Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011” sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
- Judiciary.Senate.gov: Committee report on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (PDF)
- Thomas.LOC.gov: H.R. 4271 “Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act of 1994” sponsored by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)
- Thomas.LOC.gov: Text of H.R. 4271
- CSpan.org: Video of Rep. Gwen Moore’s floor speech on the Violence Against Women Act (March 28, 2012)
- GwenMoore.House.gov: Gwen Moore introduces Violence Against Women Act
- Judiciary.Senate.gov: Minority views from Senators Grassley, Hatch, Kyl, and Cornyn (PDF)
- Judiciary.Senate.gov: Minority views from Senators Kyl, Hatch, Sessions, and Coburn (PDF)
- Judiciary.Senate.gov: Minority views from Senators Coburn and Lee (PDF)
- DCCC fundraising email signed by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) (PDF)
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