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Public Statements

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 -- Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, I have seen the good the law called the Violence Against Women Act has done in providing victim services in my State of Iowa. We all recognize the harm that flows from domestic violence. It is harmful to the victims as well as the families of victims.

I have supported reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act each time it has come up. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization on each of these occasions has been highly bipartisan. We have passed consensus bills and we have not played politics with reauthorizing the law; that is, until now. This time it seems to be different. I don't know why it should be. The majority turned this issue into a partisan issue.

In the Judiciary Committee, the majority gave no notice it would inject new matters into the Violence Against Women Act. When the committee held a hearing on this issue, these ideas were not discussed. Their need has not been demonstrated. We do not know exactly how they will work. It was clear committee Republicans would not be able to agree to this new added material. Of course, the majority refused during negotiations when we asked they be removed.

Republicans will be offering a substitute amendment to the Leahy bill. Probably 80 to 85 percent of the substitute we are offering is the same as the Leahy bill. This includes whole titles of the bill. We could have again reached a near consensus bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, but the majority intentionally decided not to change the bill. They didn't want it to pass with an overwhelming bipartisan majority.

Now the media has reported this was a deliberate strategy of the majority. A recent Politico article quoted a prominent Democratic Senator. The article said he ``wants to fast track the bill to the floor, let the GOP block it, then allow Democrats to accuse Republicans of waging a war against women.'' This is the cynical, partisan game-playing Americans are sick of. At every town meeting people say to me: When are you going to get together and stop the partisanship? This is especially the case on this bill.

Republicans aren't even blocking the bill. We have called for the bill to be brought up. Instead, the majority has taken 6 months to reauthorize this program that expired last October. That says something about the priorities of the other party.

For instance, last week, we wasted time on political votes. That seems to be the case in the Senate most of this year. The Senate can pass a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act by an overwhelming margin, but it seems as though the other party doesn't want that to happen. When they say unfavorable things about Republicans and women, they aren't being forthright. A few weeks ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a fundraising e-mail. The e-mail stated, in part:

Now, there are news reports that Republicans in Congress will oppose re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act. Enough is enough! The Republican War on Women must stop NOW ..... Will you chip in $3 by midnight tonight to hold Republicans accountable for their War on Women?

The majority had a decision between raising money for campaigns or trying to get the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill that would actually help these victims. I say to my colleagues, there is no war on women except the political one. It is a figment of the imagination of Democratic strategists who don't want to remember health care reform, unemployment or high gas prices. Instead of talking about those issues--particularly high gas prices--they would rather make up a war against women. All evidence points to the other side being more interested in raising money.

The media has also reported the bill is coming out now because the Democrats' desire to gin up a Republican so-called war on women was derailed last week, I suppose by other issues. It should be clear at the outset Republicans are not blocking, have not blocked, and never threatened to block the Senate's consideration of this bill. The Judiciary Committee only reported the bill to the Senate 2 months ago. It was March before the committee filed its usual committee report to the entire Senate. Democrats immediately came to the floor and urged the bill to come up right now. It was up to the majority leader to decide when the bill should be debated. He finally decided--not right after the bill was reported out of committee or not right after the committee report was filed--to do it now. Why not back then?

As long as there is a fair process for offering amendments, including our alternative bill and pointing out the flaws in the majority's bill, this should be a relatively short process. As the previous speaker said, I hope we can get it done this very day.

There are several other important points I wish to establish. First, I hope a consensus version of the Violence Against Women Act will be reauthorized. If a consensus bill doesn't pass, no rights of women or anyone else will be affected if the bill does not pass because, contrary to the statements made, there would be no cutbacks of services.

The Violence Against Women Act--the bill before us--is an authorization bill only, not an appropriations bill. This bill does not allow the expenditure of one dime because that result occurs through the appropriations process. Appropriators can and will fund the Violence Against Women Act programs regardless of whether this bill is reauthorized. This is exactly what happened over the past year. We think new issues have arisen since the last Violence Against Women Act reauthorization. These issues should be addressed in a consensus reauthorization. That can happen. We should give guidance to the appropriators. That is what authorization committees, such as in this case, the Judiciary Committee, is all about.

I support the appropriators continuing to fund the Violence Against Women Act while we are trying to put together a consensus bill. The Violence Against Women Act is being funded despite the expiration of its previous authorization. No existing rights of anyone are affected if the Violence Against Women Act is not reauthorized. No existing rights of anyone are affected if we pass a consensus bill rather than this partisan bill--I should say the majority's bill, not the partisan bill.

Second, the majority controls how bills move in the Senate. As I said, the current Violence Against Women Act reauthorization expired 6 months ago. If reauthorization was so important, I think the majority party could have moved to reauthorize this bill months ago. They didn't move a bill because no one's substantive rights or funding are at stake. This is true, even though the prior reauthorization has expired and a new reauthorization bill has not yet passed.

Third, nothing like the majority's bill, where it does not reflect consensus, will become law. It is a political exercise. The other body, meaning the House of Representatives, doesn't seem as though it is going to pass it the way the majority party here wants it to pass. If we want to pass a consensus violence against women reauthorization bill, we ought to start with the alternative Senator Hutchison and I are going to present to the Senate.

Fourth, the majority's bill, as reported out of committee, was and is fiscally irresponsible. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the majority's bill would have added more than $100 million in new direct spending. That will increase the deficit by that same amount. The reason is the immigration provisions that we said previously were nonstarters. These were some of the provisions the majority refused to take out. Those provisions are bad immigration policy. Nonetheless, I am glad the majority has now found an offset for this spending.

The Republican alternative does more to protect the rights of victims of domestic violence and sex crimes than does, in fact, the majority bill. There are many ways in which this substitute does that. Under the substitute amendment, more money goes to victims and less to bureaucrats. It requires that 10 percent of the grantees be audited every year. This is to ensure taxpayer funds are actually being used for the purpose of the legislation--to combat domestic violence.

This is a very important point. The Justice Department inspector general conducted a review of 22 grantees under this law between 1998 and 2010. Of these 22 audits, 21 were found to have some form of violation of grant requirements. The violations range from unauthorized and unallowable expenditures to sloppy recordkeeping and failure to report in a timely manner. When this happens, the money is not getting to the victims and the taxpayers' money is being wasted.

Let me give some examples. In 2010, one grantee was found by the inspector general to have questionable costs for 93 percent of the nearly $900,000 they received from the Justice Department. A 2009 audit found that nearly $500,000 of a $680,000 grant was questionable.

The fiscal irregularities continue. An inspector general audit from just this year found that this law's grant recipients in the Virgin Islands engaged in almost $850,000 in questionable spending. Also, a grant to an Indian tribe in Idaho found about $250,000 in improperly spent funds. This included--can my colleagues believe it--$171,000 in salary for an unapproved position.

In Michigan this year, a woman, at a VAWA grant recipient facility, used grant funds to purchase goods and services for personal use.

We should make sure then that Violence Against Women Act money goes to victims and not to waste such as this. That hasn't been the case, obviously, under the current situation. So our Republican substitute deals with this spending problem.

The substitute also prevents grantees from using taxpayer funds to lobby for more taxpayer funds.

That will ensure that more money is available for victims' services. Money that goes to grantees and is squandered helps no woman or other victims.

In addition, the Republican alternative limits the amount of Violence Against Women Act funds that can go to administrative fees and salaries to 7.5 percent. That means money that now is over the 7.5-percent suggested limit is going to bureaucrats and not to victims. Of course, the underlying bill, the Leahy bill, contains no such limit. If you want the money to go to victims and not bureaucrats, those overhead expenses should be capped at this 7.5-percent level.

The Republican substitute amendment requires that 30 percent of the STOP grants and grants for arrest policies and protective orders are targeted to sexual assault. The Leahy-Crapo bill sets aside only 20 percent instead of that 30 percent to fight sexual assault.

The substitute Senator Hutchison and I offer--hopefully this afternoon--requires that training materials be approved by an outside accredited organization. This ensures that those who address domestic violence help victims based on knowledge and not ideology. This will result in more effective assistance to victims. The Leahy-Crapo bill contains no such requirement.

The Hutchison-Grassley substitute protects due process rights that the majority bill threatens. I will give you an instance. The majority bill said that college campuses must provide for ``prompt and equitable investigation and resolution'' of charges of violence or stalking. This would have codified a proposed rule of the Department of Education that would have required imposition of a civil standard or preponderance of the evidence for what is essentially a criminal charge, one that, if proved, rightly should harm reputation. But if established on a barely ``more probable than not'' standard, reputations can be ruined unfairly and very quickly. The substitute eliminates this provision.

The majority has changed their own bill's language. I thank them for that. I take that as an implicit recognition of the injustice of the original language.

The substitute also eliminates a provision that allowed the victim who could not prove such a charge to appeal if she lost, creating double jeopardy.

The majority bill also would give Indian tribal courts the ability to issue protection orders and full civil jurisdiction over non-Indians based on actions allegedly taking place in Indian country.

Noting that the due process clause requires that courts exercise jurisdiction over only those persons who have ``minimum contacts'' with the forum, the Congressional Research Service has raised constitutional questions about this provision. The administration and its supporters in this body pursue their policy agendas headlong without bothering to consider the Constitution. The substitute contains provisions that would benefit tribal women and would not run afoul of the Constitution.

We have heard a lot of talk about how important the rape kit provisions in the Judiciary Committee bill are. I strongly support funds to reduce the backlog of testing rape kits. But that bill provides that only 40 percent of the rape kit money actually be used to reduce the backlog. The substitute requires that 70 percent of the funding would go for that purpose and get rid of the backlog sooner.

It requires that 1 percent of the Debbie Smith Act funds be used to create a national database to track the rape kit backlog. It also mandates that 7 percent of the existing Debbie Smith Act funds be used to pay for State and local audits of the backlog.

Debbie Smith herself has endorsed these provisions. The majority bill has no such provisions. Making sure that money that is claimed to reduce the rape kit backlog actually does so is provictim. True reform in the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization should further that goal.

Combating violence against women also means tougher penalties for those who commit these terrible crimes. The Hutchison-Grassley substitute creates a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for Federal convictions for forcible rape. The majority bill establishes a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence. That provision is only in there because Republicans offered it and we won that point in our committee.

Child pornography is an actual record of a crime scene of violence against women. Our alternative establishes a 1-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of child pornography where the victim depicted is under 12 years of age.

I believe the mandatory minimum for this crime should be higher. In light of the lenient sentences many Federal judges hand out, there should be a mandatory minimum sentence for all child pornography possession convictions. But the substitute is at least a start. This is especially true because the majority bill takes no action against child pornography.

The alternative also imposes a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for the crime of aggravated sexual assault. This crime involves sexual assault through the use of drugs or by otherwise rendering the victim unconscious. The Leahy bill does nothing about aggravated sexual assault. The status quo appears to be fine for the people who are going to vote for the underlying bill if the Hutchison-Grassley amendment is not adopted.

Instead, the Hutchison-Grassley amendment establishes a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for the crime of interstate domestic violence that results in the death of the victim.

It increases from 20 to 25 years the statutory maximum sentence for a crime where it results in life-threatening bodily injury to, or the permanent disfigurement of, the victim.

It increases from 10 to 15 years the statutory maximum sentence for this crime when serious bodily injury to the victim results.

The Leahy bill contains none of these important protections for domestic violence victims.

The substitute grants administrative subpoena power to the U.S. Marshals Service to help them discharge their duty of tracking and apprehending unregistered sex offenders. The Leahy bill does nothing to help locate and apprehend unregistered sex offenders.

And the substitute cracks down on abuse in the award of U visas for illegal aliens and the fraud in the Violence Against Women Act self-petitioning process. The majority bill does not include any reforms of these benefits, despite actual evidence of fraud in the program.

One of the Senators who recently came to the floor complained that there had never been controversy in reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. But in the past there were no deliberate efforts to create partisan divisions. We always proceeded in the past in a consensus fashion.

Domestic violence is an important issue, serious problem. We all recognize that. In the past, we put victims ahead of politics in addressing it. When the other side says this should not be about politics and partisanship, why, heavens, we obviously agree. It is the majority that has now decided they want to score political points above assisting victims. They want to portray a phony war on women because this is an election year. They are raising campaign money by trying to exploit this issue, and I demonstrated that in one of the e-mails that came to our attention.

There could have been a consensus bill before us today, as in the past. There is controversy now because that is what the majority seems to want. We look forward to a fair debate on this bill and the chance to offer and vote on our substitute amendment. That amendment contains much that is in agreement with the Leahy bill. The substitute also is much closer to what can actually be enacted into law to protect victims of domestic violence.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I wish to commend my colleague from Texas, Senator Hutchison, for offering her substitute amendment to the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill. I am pleased to cosponsor her amendment. This amendment is vitally needed.

The Violence Against Women Act has always been reauthorized in the past on a bipartisan, consensus basis.

It would have been so easy to do so again.

All of us who support the amendment of the Senator from Texas are in agreement with 80 percent of the bill that is before us.

But the majority has decided to place a higher priority on scoring political points than on passing another consensus reauthorization of the law.

Recently, Vice President Biden asked what kind of message it would send to women if VAWA were allowed to expire.

He implied that a crisis would be at hand that must be avoided at all costs.

But the actual answer to his question is clear.

The majority party has already allowed VAWA to expire.

VAWA's reauthorization expired last October.

There has been no crisis of any kind because the appropriations for VAWA programs have kept flowing.

It is the majority, not us, that is responsible for the lapse in VAWA's authorization.

The way that the Judiciary Committee handled reauthorization this time has been very disappointing.

The majority insisted on including--and retaining--provisions that appear designed to provoke partisan opposition.

For instance, the majority insisted on giving Indian tribal courts criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian Americans for the first time in our country's history.

The committee held one hearing on reauthorizing this bill, and it devoted no attention to exploring how this provision would operate.

As a result, the committee described this provision in only four sentences in its report on the legislation.

We all recognize that domestic violence rates in Indian country are too high.

Both the committee-reported bill and the Hutchison-Grassley substitute contain provisions to address the problem.

But the majority cannot explain why expanding the power of tribal courts would be effective or how this would work.

Do the tribes have the resources and expertise and resources to comply with the Constitution?

How would the Federal courts' caseload be affected by all the new habeas petitions that would necessarily be filed if this became law?

What changes would occur in the existing relationships between Federal, State, and tribal law enforcement?

The majority has no idea whether this provision would help matters or not because it simply did not give this issue any careful attention.

Moreover, the Congressional Research Service has raised several constitutional issues that would be posed by this provision as it was reported from the committee.

These include due process, equal protection, fifth amendment grand jury and double jeopardy issues, as well as sixth amendment rights to counsel and a jury trial by one's peers.

At the eleventh hour before floor consideration, the majority has recognized the serious constitutional issues that were raised by the committee language.

It has changed the language in an effort to respond to the constitutional questions it had denied existed.

If we had had a hearing on these questions, matters could have proceeded differently.

These changes do not address the constitutional questions CRS posed about congressional power to recognize the inherent power of tribes to prosecute non-Indians, nor do they affect the inability of a defendant to appeal his conviction.

And, of course, they do not address the practical concerns that I have raised all along.

CRS also raises constitutional due process concerns regarding another section in the bill that would give tribal courts the authority to enforce protective orders. That section remains unchanged.

Ironically, the constitutional concerns about the criminal provisions are made more severe because the majority refused to eliminate language we asked them to omit.

Constitutional problems are made worse because the bill gives tribes criminal jurisdiction as part of their claimed inherent sovereignty.

Our substitute strikes the provisions.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the relevant portions of the CRS analysis.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD,

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Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, to address the real problems of domestic violence among Native Americans, our substitute would permit tribes to petition for protective orders against non-Indians in Federal court.

The committee-reported bill did not respect due process in the area of accusations against college students.

Of course, allegations of sexual assault on campus should be taken as seriously as anywhere else.

But reputations can be ruined by false charges, so it is important that fairness in adjudications occur.

As a practical matter, the committee-reported bill imposed on these campus proceedings the standards of proof issued in a controversial proposed regulation by the Department of Education.

They were very weak and unfair.

Additionally, under the committee-reported bill, if the campus disciplinary authority exonerated the innocent even under the weak standard of proof, the accuser could appeal for another round of proceedings.

That just is not fair.

At the last minute, the majority has changed the first but not the second of these provisions.

Now, the investigation must be fair and impartial.

That is progress.

This change should have been made much earlier.

But the bill still allows a person who has been found innocent after a fair investigation to be pursued again at the victim's request.

Our substitute eliminates that unfairness.

The committee bill also mishandles immigration issues.

The one hearing the Judiciary Committee held presented testimony that fraud exists in the VAWA-self petitioning process.

We heard from victims who fell in love with foreign nationals, sponsored them for residency in the United States, only to be accused of abuse so that the foreign national could get a green card.

The chairman promised at the hearing to include language in the bill that would address this immigration fraud, but his bill fails to include anything of the sort.

Our substitute contains language that will reduce fraud and abuse by requiring an in person interview whenever possible with the applicant who alleges abuse.

We cannot allow people to misuse the VAWA self-petitioning process to obtain a green card.

The committee-reported bill also expands the number of U visas by tens of thousands without changing the rules by which they are issued.

Under current law, an individual may be eligible for a U visa if he or she has been or is likely to be helpful to the investigation or prosecution of a crime.

However, the requirements for a U visa are generous.

There is no requirement that an investigation be commenced as a result of the alien reporting the crime; there is no time period within which an alien has to report the crime; the crime could have occurred years before it is reported and there could be no way to identify the perpetrator; the alien seeking the ``U'' visa could even have a criminal record of their own.

Our substitute includes commonsense, best practices to ensure that U visas are truly used as a tool to fight crime.

The Hutchison-Grassley substitute amendment will better protect victims of domestic violence than does the underlying bill.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in grant money for domestic violence programs are distributed every year.

For that money to be effective, it must actually reach victims.

But too much of the money does not reach victims.

Excess amounts are spent on administrative expenses, conferences, and lobbying, and some is lost to waste, fraud, and abuse.

For example, since 1998, the inspector general has audited 22 individual VAWA grantees.

In those random audits, 21 were found to have unallowable costs, unsupported expenditures, or other serious deficiencies in how they expended taxpayer dollars.

That is millions of dollars that could have helped an untold number of victims but instead were lost.

Although some good accountability measures were included in the committee-reported bill, more are necessary.

The substitute amendment requires audits and includes mandatory exclusions for those who are found to have violated program rules.

It limits conference expenditures at the Justice Department and Health and Human Services Department unless there is proper oversight.

It prohibits lobbying by grantees, and it limits administrative expenses in the government's management of the grants.

Our substitute directs more money to victims of the most serious crimes than the committee bill by requiring 30 percent--not 20 percent--of the funds go toward sexual assault.

It directs that 70 percent of the funds for reducing rape kit backlogs actually be used for that purpose, not the mere 40 percent in the committee-reported bill.

The substitute protects victims in other ways that are not contained in the underlying bill.

It contains a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for aggravated sexual abuse.

It imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year for possession of child pornography where the child depicted is under 12.

That does not go far enough, but it is a step in the right direction.

It is a consensus item that has passed the Judiciary Committee in the past with a strong bipartisan vote.

The alternative also creates a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for interstate domestic violence that results in death.

There are opponents of mandatory minimum sentences.

The leniency-industrial complex is active in this area as in others.

But we should not take too seriously the claims of opponents of the mandatory minimums that they take away judicial discretion.

They think that judges should be able to give any sentence they want on these crimes, even potentially no jail time at all.

Contrary to victims' groups, they fear that any requirement of jail time for these crimes will be counterproductive and lead to lower sentences.

But those same opponents support the grants for arrest in the committee-reported bill.

Unlike sentences, mandatory arrest policies tie the hands of law enforcement to take action against people who have not been convicted of anything.

They may reduce the likelihood that the police may be called in actual cases of domestic violence.

They may result in calls to the police by one person for leverage against another.

They may cause other negative unintended consequences as well.

Our substitute also gives the Marshals Service administrative subpoena authority to pursue unregistered sex offenders.

These are individuals who are required by law to register as sex offenders but fail to comply.

This is another provision that has enjoyed wide bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee.

Victims will also be helped by the substitute's requirement of an audit of the Justice Department's use of the Crime Victims Fund.

When criminals are convicted and made to pay fines, these fines are placed in a fund for the sole purpose of assisting victims.

However, there are questions whether the Justice Department is spending these funds only for their one permitted use.

An audit is in order.

And the bill also includes a bipartisan provision to enable victims to receive restitution that is owed to them but has not been paid.

The IRS would be permitted to deduct the money from payments it would otherwise make to the perpetrator.

Mr. President, there is broad bipartisan support for reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

The Hutchison-Grassley substitute would of the underlying bill reauthorize the 80 percent that enjoys that consensus.

It eliminates provisions that are not consensus and would not pass the other body and become law.

And it adds other provisions that are widely supported and would provide real benefits to victims of domestic violence.

I urge my colleagues to support it.

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