By Robert Harding
Republican women in the House of Representatives have formed their own committee and U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-Onondaga Hill, is one of the group's leading voices.
The Women's Policy Committee was created to help raise the profile of GOP women, Buerkle said in an interview. Buerkle will serve as one of the committee's two vice chairs.
"I think the perception is it's the liberal women -- the Democratic women -- who are out there talking and we decided it was time for the Republican women to step forward and to raise the issues that are important to not only women but to all Americans," Buerkle said.
Buerkle covered a few other topics during the interview.
Comments on attempts to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act
The debate over reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act has heated up, especially now that the House and Senate have approved their own versions of the bill.
The next step would be a conference committee for both houses to work out an agreement, which would reauthorize VAWA and provide much needed funding to domestic violence shelters.
While Senate Democrats point the finger at House Republicans for making this a political issue, Buerkle blamed the Senate Democrats.
"The VAWA bill has been in place since 1994. It really has been non-controversial. It's gone through both houses without a problem. And unfortunately this year, the Senate decided to make it a political issue and change some things up," she said.
"That's very unfortunate. We've put this bill forward. We're concerned that it gets passed because locally, the domestic violence shelters need the funding."
In the Senate bill, specific provisions were included to provide more protections for immigrants, American Indians and the LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community.
Buerkle said House Republicans feel it's not necessary to "enumerate who should receive services in the domestic violence shelters."
"Our position is that there's equal protection under the law. And that should be the goal of every law passed in this country that it's applied evenly to all citizens of this country," she said. "When you begin to enumerate, then you run the risk of leaving a group out. And that's, I think, the difference between the two bills."
According to Buerkle, nothing in the House version of the VAWA reauthorization bill would exclude LGBT victims of abuse, immigrants and American Indians.
"When a person walks into a domestic violence shelter and they claim to be a victim of domestic violence, they should expect to receive services from that domestic violence shelter," she said.
Buerkle supports bill to create Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn
As an Auburn native, Buerkle is familiar with the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn and efforts to create a national historical park honoring the civil rights icon in the city.
Buerkle made it clear that she supports the efforts and the legislation introduced in Congress.
"I do support that bill and I've talked to (Auburn's current representative) Richard Hanna about it. We will work with Richard until I am Cayuga County's representative," she said. "We need to. It's the right thing to do, not only to raise awareness, but to pay tribute to a woman who was really remarkable. What Harriet Tubman did was remarkable. She needs to be recognized with a place in history and recognition for her in the (Harriet Tubman National Historical Parks Act) bill is extremely appropriate."