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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.R. 4970, Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012, and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 4310, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. POLIS. I thank the gentlelady for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to the rule and the underlying bills: H.R. 4970, the Cantor-Adams bill, and H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act.

Before we discuss the unprecedented rule for the Cantor-Adams bill, which has really turned what has traditionally been a bipartisan issue into a political football--to the detriment of women across our country--I would like to say a few words about the National Defense Authorization Act, which is also included in this rule.

I am really dismayed that the Defense authorization bill that House Republicans have brought before us undermines the bipartisan agreement which was reached just last summer. The bill funds defense spending at $8 billion over the levels set in the Budget Control Act and $3 billion over the President's budget request--again, more deficit spending in this Republican bill before us under this rule.

As our deficit spirals out of control, we need to tighten our belt and balance our budget. Instead, this bill doubles down on 10 years of ballooning defense budgets, which have played a major role in our deficit. This bill continues to kick the can down the road toward balancing our budget and leaves an only bigger hole that the Republican tax-and-spend policies continue to dig, putting our Nation deeper and deeper into debt.

Additionally, this bill ties the hands of our military and law enforcement by requiring in statute to keep military detainees in Guantanamo, handcuffing any President, Democrat or Republican, and preventing him from coming up with a plan for what to do with these individuals. This bill panders to our fears by insisting that the detainees remain in Guantanamo interminably. It tries to tell generals how to do their jobs and sets a timetable for troop levels in Afghanistan rather than does our normal civilian process.

Finally, I am disappointed by the political posturing included in the bill. The NDAA used to focus solely on setting defense policy and protecting our Nation. Unfortunately, the Republicans have decided to use this bill to also push political wedge issues. There is language in this bill prohibiting the use of military facilities to conduct same-sex marriages even in States that allow same-sex marriages. It even prevents gay and lesbian chaplains from marrying members of the military to other members of the military.

Further, I am deeply disturbed that, in a bill that governs our national security, language was included that would increase our dependence on foreign oil and that would undermine our long-term energy security interest. This bill's exemption of the Department of Defense from complying with section 526 of the 2007 energy bill hurts water and recreational interests in my State and harms research and development and investment in renewable energy.

Now, sadly, as disappointing as it is to see political posturing in the Defense authorization bill under this rule, it is truly horrifying to see the political posturing in the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act, which under this House version would likely lead to more violence against women. The Violence Against Women Act has a long bipartisan history. Both sides have traditionally sought to protect all victims of domestic violence, not just some. Sadly, this bill before us undoes much of the work that previous Congresses have done and accomplished on this issue for no reason when we have a bipartisan Senate version of the bill that protects all women from the abuse of partners.

Why would we exclude certain women in this country? If a woman is in a lesbian relationship, should she not be protected if she is a victim of domestic abuse? If a woman doesn't have the documentation to be in this country and is here illegally, should she not be protected under this law?

VAWA protects women who are actually convicted of other crimes. If a woman stole a car and served time, was convicted of that crime, she is still protected from domestic abuse under VAWA. Yet nonviolent offenders of our civil code, like undocumented immigrants, would no longer be protected because they would effectively face deportation after 4 years for testifying against the perpetrators of their abuse, making it much less likely that they would bring the perpetrators to justice and end the vicious cycle of domestic abuse in their families.

The majority in the House has offered no explanation for their refusal to allow us to take up the Senate bipartisan bill. My colleague Virginia Foxx was noncommittal in her response about whether we would be taking up the Senate bipartisan bill. If she doesn't know the answer--and I certainly take her on her word--I would hope that somebody on the other side would come to the floor and say, Can we take up this Senate bipartisan bill? And if not, why not? And if so, when?

It passed the Senate with 68 votes, Republicans and Democrats. This is the time to stand up and see if our colleagues on both sides of the aisle are serious about responding to the insidious domestic violence crimes that occur every day throughout this country. Frankly, that could start by the defeat of this bill, allowing for an open process in considering this bill on the floor of the House.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. I thank the gentleman from Iowa. Though we disagree on the bill, we can both agree that this is a terrible rule. And I encourage my colleagues to follow the leadership of the gentleman from Iowa in opposing this rule.

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Mr. POLIS. I strongly urge my colleagues to vote "no'' and defeat the previous question and allow the Senate bill that has passed with a bipartisan majority, that actually expands protections for all women, to be considered by this body.

Here, Madam Speaker, is the face of somebody affected by the Violence Against Women Act from Colorado. Her name is Sara. Sara came to our country illegally. She was brought illegally, unbeknownst to her, by her American husband. Once in the United States, she was abused. She was isolated. She was effectively kept a prisoner in her own house by her husband.

The first time she was violently beaten by her husband was when she went on a walk because her husband claimed that she had disobeyed him. She was trapped in a relationship where she was abused, sexually as well as verbally, for 14 years.

She finally escaped with her son to safe transitional housing called Alternatives to Violence in Loveland, Colorado. Once there, she learned English and obtained temporary legal status through a U visa provided under the Violence Against Women Act.

Today, I'm proud to say, Madam Speaker, she's a United States citizen and works as an advocate for other immigrant victims of domestic abuse.

Stories like Sara are inspiring and reinforce the reason that so many of us feel passionately to join across party lines to ensure that no domestic victim is left unserved.

This Cantor-Adams bill offers us a false choice between weakening and undermining protections in the Violence Against Women Act or maintaining the status quo. The American people understand that a vote for the Cantor-Adams bill is a vote to roll back protections for all domestic and sexual violence victims and puts the safety of our most vulnerable domestic violence victims at risk.

Immigrants, Native Americans, lesbian, gay, and bisexual victims all have historically faced many barriers to reporting sexual violence. But instead of removing those barriers, this bill, under this closed rule, creates new ones.

Lesbian and gay survivors face particular obstacles in accessing the criminal justice system. Lesbian and gay survivors are often reluctant to report abuse, and when they do finally seek assistance, they frequently don't receive the support they need across lifesaving services and resources. Studies tell us that gay and lesbian couples experience domestic violence at roughly the same rates as the general population. It is no surprise that less than one in five gay and lesbian victims of intimate partner violence receives help through a service provider.

This bill fails to provide the same vital protections for gay and lesbian families that have been overwhelmingly approved in the Senate bill. During the Judiciary markup, I offered an amendment to restore these protections, but unfortunately, it was voted down. This closed process prevents the ability of Members of the House to even consider or vote on adding these protections back in. Had the House Republicans allowed amendments on the floor today, I would have offered two amendments that I offered--along with my colleagues Representative Jackson Lee, Representative Lofgren, Representatives DEUTCH and CHU, all who were leaders in the Judiciary markup--which would have eliminated these atrocious provisions from the bill.

Some of the most egregious anti-immigrant provisions would destroy incentives to cooperate with law enforcement. People like Sara, who bravely came forward to report domestic violence, would face deportation after 4 years. Why would somebody come forward and report something if it would ultimately lead to her own deportation?

All women deserve to be protected from domestic violence--even women who have committed crimes, even women who have had civil violations, like violating our immigration laws, even women who are lesbians. All women deserve to be protected by the Violence Against Women Act, and that is what this bill is about. The Senate bill, which passed on a bipartisan basis and included a report from well over a dozen Republican Senators, included these provisions.

Abuse is abuse, whether it occurs against immigrants, whether it occurs against gay and lesbian Americans, or whether it occurs against Native Americans. Yet, under this bill before us, a Native American woman who is living on a reservation and who is raped and abused by a nontribal member lacks protection and remains at risk of serious sexual and physical violence by her abuser. Under this underlying bill, gay and lesbian survivors and victims will struggle to get protective orders or will be turned away from service providers just because of their sexual orientation or gender identities.

Just as alarming, this bill removes protections that currently exist for some of our Nation's most vulnerable populations: battered immigrant spouses, restricting the ability of U visa holders to apply for permanent resident status and forcing them to face deportation.

I strongly urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the bills and to defeat the previous question, and I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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