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Public Statements

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, 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 commonsense 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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