House Republicans filed their own version of the Violence Against Women Act legislation yesterday, but it doesn’t protect all victims from violence. Indeed, it rolls back current law. It’s so bad that even the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women had to oppose it.
Last year, because the House Republicans refused to act, the Violence Against Women Act expired at the end of 2012. Thanks only to the appropriations surrounding the “fiscal cliff” deal, it’s still being funded—temporarily. That won’t last long unless it’s reauthorized.
Last year, the House GOP, led by current House Majority leader(R-Va.), wouldn’t accept the Senate bill’s protections for LGBT, Native American, and undocumented victims. White, straight women do deserve and receive protection in the House version of VAWA.
Now the new House version of the bill ignores those same groups. And the House bill also shifts the job of deciding which victimized groups deserve funding to the state governments. This appears to opponents as a hand-off of responsibility.
House GOP excuses
From its origin in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act never has been controversial. But House Republicans are making all kinds of excuses now to snub the bipartisan VAWA reauthorization that the Senate passed over a week ago.
The excuses are—quite simply—wrong.
Let’s examine why the House GOP rejects Senate’s VAWA bill.
Excuse: It’s too expensive.
Response: The Senate’s bill will cost $659 million over five years. But that’s a decrease in cost since 2005, even while the Senate’s reauthorization bill provides more protections.
Excuse: Protecting Native American victims is “unconstitutional.”
Response: Currently, Native American victims with non-native partners are caught in limbo. Tribal courts cannot touch their perpetrators, but federal law enforcement doesn’t have jurisdiction there either.
Excuse: Why enumerate groups that need protection?
Response: That implies that the prior bill was better--when it only protected a narrow segment of victims.
According to the government’s own Center for Disease Control, every year, 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner in the US. These are real people who need real protections.
VAWA is proven effective. Between its enactment in 1994 and 2010, the rate of at which domestic violence occurred dropped by 64 percent. VAWA was also instrumental in setting up community programs to assist women in abusive situations.
U.S. Senator(D-Wash.) condemned the House bill for removing protections for women at-risk. "It’s not a compromise, it’s an unfortunate effort to exclude specific groups of women from receiving basic protections under the law. And we cannot allow that to happen,” reads her statement.
Murray calls on moderate House Republicans to “step up and finally force their leadership to stop ignoring the calls of women aross the country.” By introducing the bipartisan Senate bill, House Republicans can end the needless suffering of crime victims.
But, as things stand now, House Republicans are poised to fast-track their VAWA reauthorization version to a floor vote next Tuesday during a Rules Committee hearing.
A photo campaign “We need VAWA because…” is running on Facebook and Instagram. The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women welcomes photos on Instragram earmarked with the hashtag #VAWA. Submissions also include the submitter’s state name and the applicable House representative’s name to lobby Congress in support of VAWA.
Further, the National Task Force supports efforts to move the House legislation closer to the inclusive, bipartisan Senate-passed bill. To that same end, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee posted an online petition hoping to garner a quarter of a million signatures to pressure House Republicans to pass VAWA reauthorization.
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