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Leahy: House Republicans Still Have A Chance To Pass VAWA Reauthorization

Statement

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday again called on Republican leaders in the House of Representatives to act quickly and support protections for tribal women in the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The Senate acted on the legislation in April, and time is running out for Congress to send a bill to the President.

Leahy released a statement Thursday that follows a request made last week for House Republican leaders to consider legislation authored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) to provide a reasonable, middle ground regarding tribal jurisdiction. Republicans have objected to key provisions in the Senate VAWA bill that offer assistance for vulnerable communities, including tribal women, but Leahy said the Issa-Cole proposal could provide the opportunity for a breakthrough if the House were permitted to vote on the bill. Leahy's request has so far gone unanswered, but he noted that time is still left for Congress to pass VAWA before the end of the year.

"I have heard that Republican leaders are meeting today to finally discuss the issue," Leahy said. "It is my hope that they will show real leadership by supporting crucial protections for tribal women, rather than offering empty proposals that do not change existing law and will not move us forward or help us to address this crisis."

Leahy authored the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act with Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo. A key provision in the Leahy-Crapo measure would allow tribal courts limited jurisdiction to consider domestic violence offenses committed against Native American women on tribal lands by non-Native Americans. House Republicans have objected to the provision despite its broad support among service providers and advocates. The Issa-Cole bill, meanwhile, includes a provision that allows defendants to remove a case to federal court if any defendants' rights are violated. Leahy said in a floor statement last week this proposal could be a reasonable complement to the Senate VAWA bill if Republican leaders chose to work with him.

"While I am very disappointed that I have yet to see meaningful movement despite the opportunity for reasonable, bipartisan compromise to enact this needed legislation, I do believe House leaders still have an opportunity to do the right thing and pass VAWA, but that window is closing," Leahy said.

The Senate passed the Leahy-Crapo VAWA bill more than 230 days ago. The measure was supported by 68 Senators, including 15 Republican Senators. It is also endorsed by more than 1,000 national, state and local organizations, from law enforcement to religious organizations, victim advocates to health professionals. Leahy reminded House Republicans of the broad support for the Senate measure, and called on them to quit with their delay tactics and act.

"It is heartbreaking that women continue to suffer as our efforts to compromise and pass this crucial legislation hit roadblock after roadblock," Leahy said. "I hope that our last ditch effort will finally break this frustrating impasse."

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

December 13, 2012

A week ago, I came to the Senate floor and said it was time for the Senate and the House to come together to pass the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. I expressed hope because I thought there was a basis for compromise on a provision that had been a sticking point for House Republicans. I am dismayed that we have not seen progress toward that compromise despite my outreach and the urgency of the situations for thousands of victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Senator Crapo and I included in our bill a key provision to allow tribal courts limited jurisdiction to consider domestic violence offenses committed against Indian women on tribal lands by non-Indians. The epidemic of violence against native women is appalling, with a recent study finding that almost three in five native women have been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners. This provision would help end an untenable situation where non-Indians assaulting their spouses or intimate partners on tribal land are essentially immune from prosecution.

This is a common sense proposal with important limitations and guarantees of rights, but I know that House Republicans have continued to object to it. That is why I was heartened when two conservative House Republicans with leadership positions introduced a bill providing a compromise on the tribal jurisdiction provision.

Representative Issa of California and Representative Cole of Oklahoma introduced the Violence Against Indian Women Act, H.R. 6625. Their cosponsors include Republicans from North Carolina, Minnesota, and Idaho. They all have tribes within their states and are concerned about the violence our Senate bill is trying to combat. Their bill includes a provision that allows defendants to remove a case to Federal Court if any defendant's rights are violated. This modification should ensure that only those tribes that are following the requirements of the law and providing full rights can exercise jurisdiction and that defendants can raise challenges at the beginning of a case.

Last week, I called on House Republican leadership to abandon their "just say no" approach to any grant of tribal jurisdiction and give serious consideration to the Republican compromise proposal introduced last week. I have heard that Republican leaders are meeting today to finally discuss the issue. It is my hope that they will show real leadership by supporting crucial protections for tribal women, rather than offering empty proposals that do not change existing law and will not move us forward or help us to address this crisis.

I have reached out to House leaders throughout the year and very recently to find a path forward on VAWA, and I know others have conducted similar outreach. While I am very disappointed that I have yet to see meaningful movement despite the opportunity for reasonable, bipartisan compromise to enact this needed legislation, I do believe House leaders still have an opportunity to do the right thing and pass VAWA, but that window is closing.

Passing the Leahy-Crapo VAWA bill will make a difference. It will lead to a greater focus on the too often neglected problem of sexual assault and rape. It will lead to important new programs to identify high risk cases and prevent domestic violence homicides. It will lead to better protections for students on campuses across the country and better housing protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence. These improvements are most meaningful if they apply to all victims. I am willing to explore compromise language to make progress, but we should not leave out the most vulnerable victims.

As partisan objections continue to hold up this bill, we continue to read each week about new and horrific cases of domestic violence and rape. It is heartbreaking that women continue to suffer as our efforts to compromise and pass this crucial legislation hit roadblock after roadblock. I hope that our last ditch effort will finally break this frustrating impasse.


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