This week, the House voted on two issues I believe are of the utmost importance: national defense and protecting women in abusive relationships. Both pieces of legislation passed with bipartisan support.
National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2013
The National Defense Authorization Act -- NDAA, for short -- is the key mechanism by which Congress fulfills its primary constitutional responsibility to "provide for the common defense.' I want to ensure everyone in our military receives the support they need and deserve as they execute their missions and come home safely. I believe that is one of my most important responsibilities as a U.S. Representative.
Our troops are still heavily engaged in Afghanistan and we are winding down our military involvement in Iraq. We also have members of our military stationed across the globe, from South Korea to Kuwait. The NDAA lays out a plan to equip our war fighters and make sure they are compensated for the selfless act of protecting America and the freedoms we all are blessed to enjoy. Importantly, it prevents steep increases to health care fees on active duty and military retirees proposed by the current administration.
What some may also have heard is the rumor -- spread mainly on the internet and by some on cable news -- that the NDAA will allow the military to detain American citizens indefinitely and without access to a trial. I want to assure all of my constituents that this is absolutely untrue.
What the NDAA does do is affirm that the military may lawfully detain individuals who are engaged in armed conflict with the United States. The focus of this portion of the legislation is groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It is vital that terrorists bent on waging war against America are treated according to the laws of war, not like simple criminals.
The detention policies in the NDAA apply only to foreign nationals waging war against the United States. American citizens are explicitly exempted from the legislation. They cannot be held by the U.S. military and they cannot be detained indefinitely.
I take civil liberties very seriously, and I appreciate the concerns many of my constituents have expressed to me about the NDAA. If anything in this legislation would have allowed the military or the government to hold American citizens without trial, I would have voted against it and urged my colleagues to do the same.
Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act
As a husband and a father I believed it was of the utmost importance that we reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA -- a bill I cosponsored. Our bill provides $660 million in annual funding to help prevent domestic violence and protect victims of abuse. It also increases resources for sexual assault investigations, prosecutions and victim services. We must give law enforcement the tools to prosecute these crimes, and victims the resources they need to get help.
Highlights of H.R. 4970
Funds VAWA at the same level as the Senate passed bill.
Increases resources for sexual assault investigations, prosecutions and victims services to bring those resources in line with the victimization rate.
Strengthens penalties for sexual assault and abuse -- includes a mandatory 10 year sentence for forcible rape.
Promotes educational awareness to prevent violence and improve services for young victims.
Funds state rape prevention education programs.
Enhances campus/dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking prevention programs.
Requires that 75 percent of funding under the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 is dedicated to testing rape kits to reduce the backlog (currently 40 percent).
Increases maximum penalties under federal stalking laws by five years for vulnerable victims or violating a protection order.
I was proud to support both of these key pieces of legislation.