UNBORN VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE ACT OF 2004
This isn't the only statement. I can give another statement by another professor which I used in my opening remarks. It is a statement of a Republican strategist. Professor Charo is at the University of Wisconsin. She made the statement recently:
If you can get enough of these bricks in place, [meaning laws] draw enough examples from different parts of life and law where embryos are treated as babies, then how can the Supreme Court say they are not? This is, without question, a conscious strategy.
So if you believe it is without question a conscious strategy-and I, based on the history of how the erosion against Roe is being waged, piece by piece, bit by bit, law by law, action by action, I believe it is a conscious strategy. The hard part about it for me is that you feel this terrible empathy for women who have been the victims and who are 7, 8, 9 months pregnant. That has been every case that has been before us today, it has reached that stage of gestation, where you know your child can exist outside of the womb and some animal has taken the child away from you by beating you to the point where they have killed the child and in many of the same cases-the Senator from Kansas illustrated today-killed the mother as well. We want to throw the book at that perpetrator. And we do. We believe our bill is clear, and we believe our bill will stand the test of time.
So we ask the Senate to support the substitute amendment and turn down the underlying bill. I reserve the remainder of my time. I yield.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I will again point out for those who are worried about some great precedent being set here in regard to abortion that over half the States have similar laws and many of them are absolutely identical to what we are writing. So people should not be concerned about this.
Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, for those who might have gotten involved in this late, I would like to use the 5 minutes to say a few things.
The first is that this is one of the most difficult areas in which to legislate because it is filled with so much emotion and so much difference of opinion. It is one of those great cultural problems that exists out there in our real world, as opposed to this world, where human lives are very much affected.
On the one hand, you have the situation the Senator from Kansas, the Senator from Ohio, and the Senator from South Carolina pointed out-situations where you have women who have terrible things done to them. It is just so hard for us to realize how that can happen, that any man can be that callous to beat to death a woman who is 7, 8, or 9 months pregnant; can use a knife; can cut her fetus when you know that child is capable of life.
I understand what drives this desire. What drives the desire is to see that there is equal punishment for the taking of that life, which I believe is a life because it can sustain life. Its pulmonary functions have cleared out in the last few weeks of pregnancy and those kinds of things. But basically it is a baby, and basically it is viable. I understand all of that.
When you get down to definitions, and when you look at the statute itself, what concerns many of us and makes us understand we are dealing with something much more than just what I have said is the definition of a child in utero who is made by this bill a person, a member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development as long as it is in the womb-that could be 3 days, I am now told, from conception-you are not only creating criminal law for the woman who can produce a child who can live and whose life is taken away but we are creating a sanction for an egg that is fertilized that may be 3 days old. That sanction can be murder and carry with it the full weight of murdering another human being. It is a very heavy sanction. You are giving rights to that newly conceived egg of a full person.
There are many of us who say this is another way of doing this. That is just saying if you harm or end a pregnancy, these full charges will revert.
The reason we do it that way is because it exists all around us. The fact that there is a reason for how this child in utero is defined and the reason is, as I have tried to elucidate-and there are many other cases-"In as many areas as we can, we want to put on the books that the embryo is a person."
Why do they want to do that? It is simple. They want to do it because if we legislate, and the Federal crime is that if a 3-day-old egg is a person and has rights, then abortion under this same context is murder or manslaughter or assault.
Full rights of a person are given.
I think that is a problem when you codify it in statute. This body is then saying: Yes, we agree. Therefore, a case can be brought against abortion of any kind at any time and also against embryonic stem-cell research that some of us believe is the new horizon of medicine, which is capable of finding cures for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and juvenile diabetes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.
Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Just to sum up, I hope Members of the Senate will vote for the substitute amendment and against the underlying bill.
I thank the Chair. I thank the distinguished Senator from Ohio. It has been a very interesting morning.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from California. This has been a very good debate. No one in the Senate Chamber cares more about the victims we have been talking about than my colleague. I salute her for her compassion. I salute her for all the great work she does in this Chamber.
Three points: This bill has nothing to do with abortion. We shouldn't fear it. People who are on either side of abortion should not fear this bill. The States have already passed laws similar to this. They have not affected abortion. That is point No. 1.
Point No. 2: The Feinstein amendment denies that there is a second victim. If you care that there is a second victim, if you care about justice, don't vote for the Feinstein amendment.
Point No. 3: The Feinstein amendment is drafted, unfortunately, so there is no penalty for the killing or the injuring of the child.
That is a problem. I don't think anyone intends for that to be the case in the sense of voting that way. If you vote for the Feinstein amendment, you are denying that there is a second victim. You are also denying that there will be any penalty for the killing or the injuring of that victim. That is what a vote for the Feinstein amendment would do. I ask my colleagues to vote no on the Feinstein amendment.
I thank the Chair. I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. All time has expired.
The question is on agreeing to the amendment.
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays.
The amendment (No. 2858) was rejected.
Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote.
Mr. BROWNBACK. I move to lay that motion on the table.
The motion to lay on the table was agreed to.
AMENDMENT NO. 2859
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I have an amendment No. 2859 at the desk. I ask for its immediate consideration.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.
The legislative clerk read as follows:
The Senator from Washington [Mrs. Murray] proposes an amendment numbered 2859.
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
(The amendment is printed in today's RECORD under "Text of Amendments.")
The PRESIDING OFFICER. There are 2 hours equally divided on the amendment. The Senator from Washington is recognized.
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, today I am offering an amendment to help prevent violence against women and children. We have heard a lot of talk today about punishing abusers. Now it is time to see who is serious about preventing abuse in the first place.
As someone who has spent my entire public life talking with victims, visiting shelters, working with advocates in law enforcement, and funding the programs victims rely on, I am here this afternoon to offer an amendment that will help women and children get the help they need to be safe and, most importantly, to save their lives.
Mr. President, the amendment I am offering this afternoon is built on what victims and experts have told me they need. That is why this amendment has been endorsed by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Family Violence Prevention Fund. These organizations know what victims need, and they say the Murray amendment will really help victims of violence.
Mr. President, I am honored to say that my amendment is named for Paul and Sheila Wellstone, who were such champions for victims of domestic violence. Senator Wellstone and I introduced legislation which is today included in this amendment. Paul's desk was just behind me here on the Senate floor. I can still see him behind me waving his arms and making the case for people who have no voice.
This amendment is a real tribute to Paul and Sheila and the fight we carry on for the millions of people who need a voice in the U.S. Senate. Whenever Paul debated an issue, you could always tell who was really standing up for families and who was just talking. The vote on my amendment will reveal who is truly concerned about giving women and children the tools they need to escape violent relationships, and who is more interested in playing politics and attempting to undermine women's constitutional rights. Any Senator who is truly concerned about the safety of women and children will join me and give battered women the support they need to escape violent relationships before it is too late.
Now, I have a feeling that during this debate we are going to hear a lot of excuses. Some Senators are going to stand up here and claim that preventing violence against women is somehow not relevant. Senators will stand up here with the talking points that have been prepared for them by the Chamber of Commerce and say that protecting women from deadly abuse is somehow bad for business.
We are going to hear a lot of excuses. But I have something stronger. I have the actual stories of dozens of women who are being abused, who have escaped abuse, or who have been killed by their abusers. Those are the voices that need to be heard on the Senate floor, not talking points from lobbyists, not the same old excuses from the very people who are cutting Violence Against Women Act programs by $10 million. We have had enough of that. We know where it has gotten us: 2 million women assaulted every year.
Nearly 1 in 3 adult women are assaulted. There are 4.9 million intimate partner rapes and physical assaults, and thousands of women every year are killed by a spouse or a boyfriend. We know what all those excuses have produced: Women who are beaten, raped, and murdered.
Some lobbyists and Members of Congress want to bury my amendment. You know what. We have had to bury enough people already. Let's see who is serious about helping to prevent violence and who is just playing politics with the lives of battered women.
Let me read a note I received from an advocate for victims of abuse. She writes:
I have had many many clients over the years who have come to me after they have been fired from work because they missed a day of work to go to court to get a civil protection order. In some of these instances, the women had sick days, but they were still fired. Several of these women were forced to return to their batterers after they lost their jobs because they lost their income and they and their children would have been homeless if they did not return.
These are some of the women who are trapped today and who desperately need our help. Mr. President, my amendment is especially important because the Bush administration is cutting or freezing funding for critical domestic violence programs. Every year, 2 million American women are sexually assaulted, stalked, or physically assaulted-2 million women every year. You would think that the White House would recognize the need to fund domestic violence programs, but the President's latest budget offers more bad news to victims of violence.
Let me give you some examples. The President's budget cuts Violence Against Women Act programs by $10 million. It cuts a Justice Department rape prevention program by $29 million. It freezes funding for the domestic violence hotline, and it freezes funding for grants for battered women shelters, precisely at a time when we need increases because evidence shows us that domestic violence increases during tough economic times just as we are having today.
So I find it pretty ironic to be here today with a bill before the Senate that purports to help victims of domestic violence while it ignores all we know about preventing it. Anyone who has talked with victims' advocates and law enforcement knows that domestic violence prevention requires more support, not less-not less. It is clear that we need to help victims escape violent relationships, and the Paul and Sheila Wellstone domestic violence prevention amendment will help.
Mr. President, my amendment does several things. It gives victims of abuse access to unemployment insurance if they have been forced to leave their job because of violence. It gives victims of violence access to expanded emergency leave so they can go to court or to the police to stop the abuse. It protects victims from employment and insurance discrimination. It provides services for children who witness domestic violence so we can end that cycle of abuse. It helps health professionals screen for abuse and respond appropriately. It gives victims better access to critical health services. Those are the steps we need to take today to protect the more than 2 million women who are sexually assaulted, stalked, or physically assaulted every single year.
Mr. President, let me say a word about the relevance of my amendment. I expect some Senators will come here and claim that preventing violence against women is somehow not relevant to the bill we are debating today. To them, it never seems to be the right time. There is always an excuse. In fact, these Senators are sending a message that victims are not relevant until they are dead. If any Senator wants to come down here and tell women across America that the abuse they face is not relevant, then they will have to make that insulting claim alone because I am going to keep fighting to get victims the help they need, to prosecute abusers and break the cycle of violence. You tell a woman who is being abused she doesn't deserve more help; you tell a child who is witnessing abuse every night that my amendment is unnecessary. I am not going to tell victims that. My amendment gives them the real help they need.
Mr. President, victims of violence have heard a lot of excuses over the years. Claiming that their daily abuse is not relevant to this Senate debate is just another of the excuses that have trapped women every year in this country. That claim is as insulting as it is false.
Just look at the recent debate in the House of Representatives on this underlying bill. During that debate, every single anti-choice Member who spoke referred to criminal acts of violence against women. Violence against women is a central part of this debate. Preventing violence against women and helping women and children who are being abused is central to this discussion.
Opponents cannot have it both ways. They cannot claim that their bill is needed to address the violence against women and then claim we should not debate ways to prevent violence against women. This amendment is clearly relevant and will truly help women and children.
Anyone who wants to claim it is not relevant will have to answer to the victims to whom they are denying help. Either you are serious about helping women and victims or you are playing politics and making excuses.
Women and children who are being violently abused every day deserve to know where their Senators stand, and Members of Congress are certainly hearing from outside groups on this, from groups that are not known-not known-for their advocacy on fighting domestic violence.
Yesterday, Senators received a letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urging them to oppose my amendment. Bruce Josten, the Chamber's Executive Vice President for Government Affairs, makes the Chamber's case rather forcefully in his letter. He writes:
It is important to note as a preliminary matter that H.R. 1997 is clearly an inappropriate vehicle for this amendment as the issues involved are completely unrelated.
"Unrelated." We are dealing with a bill that claims to address the crime of violence against women, but an amendment that would actually prevent violence is "unrelated," according to the Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Josten goes on to write:
The ill-designed programs promise to impose significant costs on business, particularly small business.
So the Chamber argues that the cost of preventing further violence against women is too high to pay. In other words, preventing domestic violence and giving women the tools to escape from abusive relationships is bad for the bottom line.
Let's, for a minute, examine the economics of domestic violence. There are costs associated with allowing domestic violence to continue, not just for women but for businesses.
In 2002, economists Amy Farmer of the University of Arkansas and Jill Tiefenthaler of Colgate University published a report on the economic impact of domestic violence. They examined publicly available studies performed in the United States, including the annual National Crime Victimization Surveys, two Physical Violence in American Families studies, and seven studies in the national violence against women survey.
As Ms. Farmer explained:
Each study was intended to answer different questions, so the data sets have different strengths and weaknesses. When we incorporated these data into a single model of domestic violence, a different picture emerged that can be seen from any one study.
They found that absenteeism, tardiness, and turnover rates are all high among domestic abuse victims. Farmer's research also concludes that domestic abuse may result in almost 7 million lost work days annually-7 million-reduced workplace productivity, increased insurance costs, and lower profits.
The researchers also cited a 1995 Roper report that found that 49 percent of the Fortune 100 executives surveyed believed that domestic violence hurt their company's productivity, and 33 percent said it lowered their profits. So this is a problem that is real, and it has real costs for businesses.
If you go to the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, you can learn some other interesting facts about domestic violence and how it affects the bottom line. On their site, you will find medical expenses from domestic violence costs $3 billion to $5 billion a year. Businesses are paying $3 billion to $5 billion a year in health care for victims of domestic violence.
You also learn that 94 percent of corporate security directors rank partner violence as a high security problem. They estimate that 75 percent of victims of domestic violence are harassed at work by their abuser.
Here is a startling fact they have on their Web site: Homicide is the No. 1 leading cause of death on the job, and 20 percent of those murders were committed by their intimate partner at the workplace.
What should we conclude from this data? Domestic violence is bad for business. It has real and it has painful costs on employers. So for those Members who want to weigh this measure against its economic merits, as the Chamber does, the facts are clear. Providing the tools that will allow abused women to escape abusive relationships can help offset billions of dollars in costs that domestic violence imposes on businesses.
But I hope my colleagues will consider more than the economics as they cast their vote. I hope my colleagues will consider the cost to the women and children who are the victims of domestic violence-the cost in pain, the cost in lives-and the pain and the lives we can protect by giving women the tools they need to escape abusive relationships.
I would like to share with my colleagues this afternoon some of the stories of the women we are trying to help with this amendment. These stories were shared with me by a nationally recognized advocate for domestic violence victims.
Let me tell my colleagues a story about a woman who had worked at a medium-sized organization for over a year as an administrative assistant. Her husband had been beating her on and off for over 15 years of their relationship. When things escalated, she missed work due to a severe beating. She called in to work and was honest about what happened to her. She came in to work the next day and was told she was fired. Her company told her they were afraid that her husband would come to the workplace and hurt her coworkers, although that had never happened before.
She did not qualify for job guaranteed leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act because the company employed less than 50 employees and, arguably, her injuries from the beating did not qualify as a serious health condition. So it made her firing legal.
If VESSA-the act we are talking about-had been in effect, she would have had access to job guaranteed leave or perhaps a provision prohibiting employers from discriminating against victims of domestic violence. She applied for and was denied unemployment insurance.
This is a real woman. This is what happened to her. It could be your next-door neighbor. It could be your daughter.
There is another woman who worked as a hospital nurse. She just left her batterer and was concerned that he might follow her to her workplace. She told her employer of her fears, and they fired her. She applied for unemployment insurance. She was denied.
Another story: Abusers often contact employers themselves to get the women they are abusing fired. One batterer called up the workplace and told them his victim was HIV positive. He then told the employer that the woman was a liar and was missing work so she could file a frivolous restraining order against him. The woman took an earned sick day off from work, but when she returned to work, she was told she was fired because she was a victim of domestic violence. If VESSA had been in place, that would have been illegal.
Another story: A woman was assaulted by her batterer in the parking lot at her workplace. She was then fired for "being in a fight."
Let me tell you about a woman who was strangled by her batterer. Her doctor told her to stay home from work for 5 days after being strangled. She called in sick to work, and she was fired because she did not have enough vacation days and she did not qualify for family and medical leave because her employer was too small.
These are real people, Mr. President. These are our next-door neighbors. These are women who live in our communities. These are real stories.
Another example: One morning a woman was getting ready to go to work and her abuser came to her home with a gun. He told her that if she left the house, he would kill her. She was able to call the police, and the police came to her home and arrested the batterer. She got a police report. She called her workplace and explained why she was unable to come to work that day. The next day she returned to work and was fired for missing work and was denied unemployment insurance.
Let me tell you another story: One woman got a call at work from her abuser. Her coworker overheard the conversation, and then her employer took her aside and said since she was dealing with so much, she couldn't possibly continue to work for him and fired her.
Here is an example of what happens when a woman tried to go to court to get help. A woman told her employer that she was in a violent relationship and that she would need to take a day off from work to go to court to get a protection order.
The employer seemed supportive and agreed, so she took the day off and went to the court. The next day when she arrived at work, her supervisor called her into his office and she was fired for missing work, even though she had obtained permission the day before.
These are just some of the people who desperately need our help. These are real stories. These are real women. They need this amendment to break out of these abusive relationships.
Let me take a minute to put this amendment in context because it is the next logical step in the progress that we have been making in fighting domestic violence. We have come a long way over the past few years in dealing with domestic violence. Not long ago domestic violence was considered a family problem. It was something people did not talk about. That climate made it very difficult for victims to seek help. It prevented friends or neighbors from getting involved in what was considered someone else's business.
Today stopping domestic violence is everyone's business, thanks to the Violence Against Women Act, which I was proud to work on and help pass. For the first time, the Violence Against Women Act recognized domestic violence as a violent crime and a national public health crisis. It laid out a coordinated strategy to bring advocates, shelters, prosecutors, and law enforcement professionals together to fight domestic violence. I was proud to help reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in 2000.
Over the years, I have been proud to work with advocates from Washington State and across the country to strengthen these violence against women programs, to increase the funding, and to help raise awareness. So the Violence Against Women Act was the first step and it helped us respond to the immediate threat of abuse. Now it is time for us to address the long-term problems that victims face. We need to break down the economic barriers that trap these women in abusive relationships, and we need to reach out to the children who witness this violence, help health care professionals stop the cycle of violence and truly protect women and children.
Let me take a few moments to walk through the parts of my amendment and show how it will help prevent and stop abuse. My amendment gives victims of violence access to unemployment compensation. Specifically, it provides victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking with unemployment insurance if they have been separated from their employment as a result of the violence.
Many abusers trap their victims financially, limiting their ability to work and forcing them out of a job. I will share some statistics that have been compiled by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Many victims of domestic violence have current or former partners who interfere with their efforts to work by harassing them on the job, threatening them and their children, withholding transportation, or beating them so severely they cannot work. In addition, more than 25 percent of domestic violence victims surveyed in three national studies reported they lost a job due at least in part to domestic violence.
We know that a job is often the only way for a victim to build up resources for themselves to eventually leave a violent relationship, but abuse and stalking can make it impossible for a victim to keep a job. We know of cases where abusers will deliberately sabotage a victim's ability to work, placing harassing phone calls, cutting off their transportation, showing up at the workplace and threatening employees. When a victim loses her job because of violence, she should have access to unemployment insurance compensation benefits.
During this debate some may claim this is some big, onerous expansion. I have seen the talking points from the groups that want to kill this genuine effort to protect women from violence, and they have it wrong. This is not some dramatic expansion. In fact, today 25 States already provide some type of unemployment insurance assistance for victims of domestic violence. We can offer that same protection to victims in every State, and we have an obligation to do it.
My amendment will also protect victims by allowing them unpaid time to get the help they need. Today a woman can use family and medical leave to care for a sick or injured spouse, but many women cannot use that act to go to court to stop the abuse. My amendment fixes that. We know that taking a day off of work to go to court or to go to the police can save a woman's life. My amendment ensures women will not be punished for taking those steps that they need to take to protect themselves from abuse.
Let me turn to another part of my amendment which deals with the children who witness domestic violence. Batterers often harm children as well as their intimate partners, and witnessing violence can have a serious impact on young children and all children. Let me offer some statistics about abuse and children to put this in perspective.
Between 3.3 million and 10 million American children annually witness assaults by one parent against another. In 43 percent of households where intimate violence occurs, at least one child under the age of 12 lives in that home. Children are caught in the crossfire of abuse, and while we know all children are affected differently, we do know that children who witness violence at home may display emotional and behavioral differences as diverse as withdrawal, low self-esteem, nightmares, or aggression against their peers, family members or property.
We know that witnessing abuse by a child can contribute to the cycle of violence. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice finds that as many as 40 percent of violent juvenile offenders come from homes where there is domestic violence. In my home State of Washington, we are now all too aware of the price children pay in cases of domestic violence.
In April of 2003, the Tacoma police chief, David Brame, shot and killed his wife Crystal. Then he took his own life, all while their two young children watched. The final tragic act was the last in a long history of abusive events that often played out in front of their two small children.
According to the police report, David Brame had been driving around in a shopping center parking lot in Gig Harbor that day when he spotted his wife Crystal and the couple's children as she was parking the car. Brame shot her and then turned the gun on himself.
According to a witness, 7-year-old Haley told her:
My daddy is a policeman and he is very mean to my mommy. I think my daddy has killed her.
Then Haley told officers she had seen her dad point a gun at her mom's head in the past.
Detectives talked to the son, David, 5 years old, at the hospital a few hours later as the mother was fighting for her life. They asked the little boy, 5 years old, "Did you see the gun?"
Yeah. And, it shooted my mom into flat dead.
The children talked about past anger between their mother and their father and what led to that terrible day. That is just one terrible example of the trauma that children who live with domestic violence have to live with. It should be our collective goal to help them overcome it.
This is how this amendment would help children who witness domestic violence. It establishes grants to children who have been exposed to domestic violence such as I just described. It supports direct counseling and advocacy, early childhood and mental health services, legal advocacy and specialized services. It provides training for school personnel to develop effective prevention and intervention strategies. It helps child welfare agencies, domestic violence, and sexual assault service providers work together to protect the children.
Finally, it supports multisystem intervention models and crisis nurseries for children who are exposed to violence in their home.
Children who witness domestic violence have special needs. They are not being addressed today. We have an obligation to change that.
Let me turn to the next part of my amendment, which increases health screening so more victims can get assistance. More than one in three women who seek care in emergency rooms for violence-related injuries were injured by their intimate partner. Unfortunately, most victims who seek health care leave the doctor's office without addressing the underlying cause of their injuries. They leave that untreated, and that is the violence they suffered. The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion every year; $4.1 billion of that is for direct medical and mental health care services.
Health care providers can do a great deal to stem the tide of domestic violence before it becomes life threatening. A 1999 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found only 10 percent of primary care physicians routinely screen for intimate partner abuse during new patient visits, and 9 percent routinely screen during periodic checkups.
Emerging research shows us hospital-based domestic violence interventions could reduce health care costs by 20 percent. My amendment will help ensure health care providers are trained in how to identify and serve victims of domestic violence, and provide grants to strengthen health care systems' responses to domestic violence.
My amendment will promote public health programs that integrate family violence assessment and intervention into basic care. It encourages collaboration between health care providers, public health programs, and domestic violence programs.
My amendment will lead to more effective interventions, more coordinated systems of care, greater resources to educate health care providers about domestic violence, and ultimately what we all want, more women receiving help.
In December of 1999, the New England Journal of Medicine published a major study on the risk factors for injury to women from domestic violence. Here is what one of the researchers, Dr. Robert Muelleman, had to say.
A lot of women who have died from domestic violence had been seen in their local emergency rooms at least 2 years before their deaths. In America, 2 to 4 million women are injured each year, and 1 to 2 million of those show up in emergency rooms. Of these, 2,000 to 3,000 a year end up as homicides.
It's clear that medical professionals in the emergency room can be a great help in identifying at-risk women and directing many of them to supportive resources before it's too late.
That is from Dr. Robert Muelleman of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Let me turn to another part of my amendment, which expands the services available to victims of abuse. My amendment gives the States the option to use Medicaid to help victims, it ensures domestic violence screening and treatment is covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, and finally my amendment ensures States use some of the maternal and child health block grant on domestic violence screening and treatment.
Those are the main provisions of my amendment. Extending unemployment insurance benefits for victims of abuse, offering family and medical leave so a victim can go to court or the police station to get help, ending insurance and employment discrimination, providing help for those children who witness abuse, offering access to health care for victims, and improving the way our health care providers screen for domestic violence.
My amendment combines the protections and services victims, law enforcement, and advocates tell us are needed, based on their real world experiences every day on the front lines of domestic violence. We have an opportunity today finally to make a real difference for millions of women who are being assaulted. We can save lives and we can eliminate all the costs domestic violence imposes on our businesses, on our families, and on our communities. The question is whether we are serious about helping to prevent violence against women.
The underlying bill before the Senate today focuses only on penalties after a woman has been abused. My amendment aims to prevent that abuse in the first place. After a woman has been killed, it is too late. We have to stop this abuse before it ends up killing some woman. My amendment gives women today the tools to escape deadly abuse.
Are the Senators in the Chamber serious about helping victims of abuse? That is the question before us.
Frankly, I don't care what the lobbyists say out there. The Chamber of Commerce has lobbyists lined up and down the hall, and they have plenty of people making their case. But I tell you, the women whose stories I shared with you today don't have lobbyists lined up in the hall.
I have been to the shelters. I talked to the women who have been beaten. I have looked in their eyes and I know the odds they are up against. I know what I would say next time I am looking into the eyes of the victim of abuse.
My colleagues will have to decide for themselves if they are going to give her excuses or throw a lifeline to help her escape the violence that may kill her. I say to my colleagues, what are you going to say to the victims of abuse? Your vote will speak volumes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I want to take a moment to address my concerns about the amendment my friend and colleague from Washington, Senator Murray, has offered to the underlying bill.
First, let me commend my colleague for her passion, for her dedication to promoting public awareness about domestic violence, and for her dedication to this cause. She certainly is a tireless advocate in these efforts to help end domestic abuse. She is steadfast and unwavering in her commitment to these issues, and I applaud her for offering this amendment today.
But, reluctantly, I come to the floor this afternoon to oppose this amendment. I say this not because I am opposed to all the provisions of her amendment, but because the reality is this is not the time or the place for this amendment. Her amendment being offered to this bill, as a practical matter, does not have any chance of becoming law. We understand how not only this body but the other body operates. The truth is, what the agreement to this amendment would do is stop the underlying bill. When we look at the calendar, when we look at the reality of the other body, when we look at what is going on in this body, the agreement to this amendment to this bill will stop this bill. It will kill this bill.
So when Members come to the floor, I implore them to think about this, however tempting it might be to agree to this amendment. It is a very big amendment. It is a very complex amendment. Some of my other colleagues in just a moment will talk about the merits of this amendment. I am not going to get into that.
I have a long history in the House, when I was in the House and later when I was Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, and now in the Senate, of supporting the cause of dealing with the problem of domestic violence. So many other Members of the Senate have done that as well. I don't say I am the only one. Other Members have had a great record. My colleague has a great record.
But the reality is this amendment, however well intended, cannot become law this way. It will not become law this way, and it will have the effect of killing this underlying bill. So, therefore, I must oppose this amendment. This amendment would kill this bill.
We are so close to seeing the underlying bill, a bill we have worked so hard to pass, actually go to the President.
The House has passed it. We are very close to passing it here in the Senate and sending it on to the President for his signature. The only thing, frankly, that now stands between this bill becoming law and going to the President for his signature is the Murray amendment.
At this point, I will yield time to my colleague from the State of Utah for his comments about this amendment.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.
Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I couldn't agree more with the comments the distinguished Senator from Ohio just made. This is a very important piece of legislation. It should not be killed on by this last-minute, 158-page amendment, which has not had a single hearing.
I have long been a supporter of ensuring that our Nation's laws extend all the protections available to women who are victimized by domestic and other violence.
Along with Senator Biden, I have taken the lead in addressing this issue through national legislation with the passage of Violence Against Women Act.
I commend Senator Biden for the work he has done on that. But it took a bipartisan effort to get that through. Of course, I worked very hard side by side with him to get that bill passed, and have stood up for it ever since.
Because of the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, the Department of Justice is now authorized to coordinate with Federal and State governments, as well as international governments, on matters concerning violence against women.
In fact, the Bush administration will allocate almost $400 million this year alone for these worthy programs.
I note with a sense of pride that a former adviser to my Woman's Advisory Council from Utah is now the director of the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice. She is doing a terrific job.
Violent crimes against women continue to be among the most under-reported. Even so, the statistics that are reported do not convey the feeling of fear and vulnerability millions of women across this country must face in our streets and all too often in their own homes.
To address this problem, effective intervention in the area of domestic violence requires coordinated efforts by police, prosecutors, counselors, and courts. It demands a major commitment by Government at all levels, Federal, State, and local. I am proud to help in coordinating the response to this important issue and have been very proud to have done so in the past. I intend to continue addressing these concerns in the future.
I say all of this to set the backdrop for why I urge my colleagues to vote against the Murray amendment.
Let me say at the outset I appreciate my colleague, Senator Murray, for attempting to advance the discussion on this issue. As someone who has been working on this matter my whole political career-and even before I officially began my political career-I know how difficult it is to craft effective legislation which truly makes a difference in this area of the law. It takes countless hours of hearings, meetings with interested and affected constituents, as well as committee markups to ensure what is ultimately passed is well formulated and well vetted so you accomplish the goals you set for yourself without causing unintended consequences.
This is a complex area of law. I am sorry to say, however, this amendment has not been adequately scrutinized. In fact, I am told no committee has examined this proposal, leaving it with far too many troubling provisions.
This is not a simple amendment. It is 158 pages long. Let me take a moment to point out just a few of the more troubling provisions contained within the Murray amendment. I am only talking about a few of them. There are plenty more.
In this Congress we have taken on a number of civil justice reforms. From class action to medical malpractice reform to asbestos reform, which I am hopeful we will consider in the next week or so, we have substantively addressed many of the more troubling aspects of civil lawsuit abuse. This amendment, however, takes us exactly in the wrong direction after all of that work.
For instance, section 112 allows plaintiffs to recover liquidated damages in addition to other damages under this amendment. This is a technical area of the law. But it is a very important area. What this amendment does makes absolutely no sense. It doesn't have a chance in the world of going through the whole Congress, but will in essence destroy this very worthy and important bill.
Liquidated damage provisions are appropriate when the actual damages are too difficult to ascertain. Accordingly, in lieu of actual damages, parties agree upon a reasonable estimate of liquidated damages. Thus, liquidated damages are used as a substitute for actual damages and not as a supplement to them. Courts simply do not enforce liquidated damages that are merely intended to serve as a penalty.
In this litigation-prone country we have right now, this would go completely awry, and it would undermine, it seems to me, what we are trying to do to prevent violence against women in the end.
What it seems the Murray amendment is trying to do is codify a set formula for determining punitive damages by automatically doubling the amount for compensatory damages with the possibility of a reduction if good faith is shown. But if that is the intent, the bill is not drafted properly to carry out that intent.
This glaring error is just one example of what occurs when a bill does not undergo the scrutiny required to pass sound legislation.
It took us years to pass the Violence Against Women Act-not because we were stupid and not because we didn't want to do it faster, but because we had to listen to experts and make the appropriate changes that have made it the great law it is today.
What will happen if this amendment is adopted? First of all, this amendment isn't going to go anywhere, anyway. But if it is adopted, it will destroy this bill. Basically it will undermine what all of us-a vast majority in this body-are trying to do.
The one reason we created the committee system, of course, is to correct and vet legislation rather than wasting valuable floor debate time.
An additional provision found in the Murray amendment pertaining to class action-section 112(g)-appears to fly in the face of the efforts of a vast majority of Senators. It makes no effort to take into consideration issues that trouble the majority of Senators. This amendment codifies in the United States Code a right to bring class actions.
I have helped lead the fight in this Congress to reform the substantial abuses that have occurred by some unscrupulous trial lawyers, personal injury lawyers primarily, who have brought unjustified class actions in an attempt to extort settlements from companies across this country. That is right. Extort settlements. In fact, well over 50 of my colleagues-truth be known, over 60 of my colleagues have joined with me to take a stand against these abuses. In light of this clear expression of sentiment, it makes no sense to codify in the United States Code this class action authorization. It flies in the face of everything we are doing around here.
Obviously, there has been no serious effort to address the legitimate concerns of the bipartisan majority of the Senators working on the class action issue, and we have worked on it for years. We are still working on it. We have come a long way. We now have a supermajority of Senators who will support class action reform as it should be supported. But it took years for us to get there. Unlike some 158-page amendment that has not been well thought through but brought up on the floor suddenly. However well intentioned the efforts are, in the end, the result will be to destroy the underlying bill that the vast majority of us would like to pass.
I am sure Senators GRASSLEY, KOHL, CARPER, and I will work with the distinguished Senator from Washington in good faith, if she will work with us in good faith with regard to her concerns as exemplified in this 158-page amendment.
Finally, let me point out another provision of the Murray amendment that opens the door to further lawsuit abuse.
In a country that has long been known for its litigation abuse, and we all know this is true, these ill-thought-out litigation matters are running us into bankruptcy-ruining businesses throughout the country, not getting money to those who deserve them, and driving a set of unscrupulous trial lawyers who basically know better but who are more interested in making money than they are in doing what is right.
Section 134 of this 158-page amendment itemizes what can be recovered in a lawsuit brought under this amendment.
In addition to the ordinary recoveries already permitted in the civil justice system, this amendment proposed by the distinguished Senator from Washington would permit a money recovery when the plaintiff suffers "inconvenience," "loss of enjoyment," and other non-pecuniary losses. Recovery for inconvenience? Recovery for loss of enjoyment? My gosh, what does that mean in the law? Anyone who takes the metro during rush hour suffers from inconvenience. And, I might add, loss of enjoyment. This type of language is absurd. It should not even be considered by this right-thinking body.
I am just mentioning a few of the problems. I don't want to take much longer because there is only an hour on each side in this debate. These are just a few of the problems caused by this amendment as it relates to civil justice judiciary issues, important issues that should not be dealt with frivolously.
I have not touched on other problems caused by the amendment such as the increase in taxes on small business that will inevitably follow if it is passed, the wholesale restructuring of state unemployment insurance rules and regulations, as well as the substantial 11th amendment concerns raised by this poorly drafted but well-intentioned amendment.
I understand others will come to the floor to discuss these issues so I don't intend to repeat them now. They are important issues. This is not an itty-bitty amendment. This is a major amendment that literally has not had a day of hearings.
I take a backseat to no one, not anyone, in ensuring that Congress does everything it can to provide protections, support, and resources to combat domestic violence. But this amendment is not well written. Or perhaps I should say, not only is it not well written, it is overwritten in many respects.
Because of the problems replete in the Murray amendment, I cannot vote in favor of it. I recommend Senators on both sides of the aisle vote against this amendment. We will certainly sit down with the distinguished Senator and look at her goals and her aims, try to help her fashion this amendment so that it can pass the Senate in a form that literally makes sense in the law, makes sense in reality, and makes sense in practicality.
I yield the floor.
Mr. ENZI. I rise in opposition to the amendment offered by the Senator from Washington. This amendment is a sweeping expansion of Federal employment law without a hearing, without committee debate, without committee amendments, and without any potential for floor amendments. We never legislate like that. This bill does not just have one concept in it; it has many concepts in it. It is 158 pages. That makes it evermore unworkable to do in the Senate. This just is not how we legislate.
Continued in Part VI