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Public Statements

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, first, I wish to applaud the distinguished leader Senator Reid for his statement. He has helped us over and over again to get this bill to the floor. The reason it is here is because of the action of the distinguished majority leader in getting it up here. I was pleased to hear his comments about hopefully finishing this today or tomorrow. Anyway, it should be done soon. This is a landmark law.

The Senate has before it a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark law we enacted that has made a difference in women's lives. By providing new tools and resources to communities all around the country, we have helped bring the crimes of rape and domestic violence out of the shadows. The Federal Government stood with the women of this country and sent the message that we would no longer tolerate their treatment as second-class citizens. Our bill renews and reinforces that commitment.

Ending violence against women is not an easy problem to solve but there is a simple and significant step we can take, right now and without delay. I, again, thank Majority Leader Reid for making this unfinished business from the last Congress a priority for the Senate early this year.

Senator Crapo and I have worked hard to make this bill bipartisan and I am proud that it has more than 60 Senate cosponsors. It also has the support of more than 1,300 local, State and National organizations from around the country that work with victims every day and know just how critical this law has been. I included their most recent letter of support with my remarks on Monday. I, again, thank them for their tireless efforts.

On Monday the Senate voted to proceed to consideration of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. I was disappointed to see that 13 Republican Senators did not vote to proceed to the bill. I do not know why. They did not say.

I worry that there are Senators who do not appreciate the role of the Federal Government in helping improve the lives of Americans. That is what the Violence Against Women Act is intended to do and it is what this law has successfully accomplished for nearly 20 years. This is an example of how the Federal Government can help solve problems in cooperation with State and local communities. The fact is, women are safer today because of this law and there is no excuse not to improve upon it and reauthorize it without delay.

We are working to protect victims--all victims--of domestic and sexual violence. I hope that those who previously opposed our efforts to improve the Violence Against Women Act will join with us and help the Senate send our strong bill to the House of Representatives so that we can get it enacted. Let us not undercut the provisions to help protect Indian women from the serious problems they face.

If anyone needs a reminder of how important government help can be, just think about the way that Federal and local law enforcement worked together earlier this week to rescue Ethan, a 5-year-old kidnapped boy, from an underground bunker in Alabama, where he had been held hostage for almost a week. Ask the family and local law enforcement if they appreciated the help of the FBI, the Defense Department and so many who contributed to the safe return of that innocent victim.

I spent years in local law enforcement and have great respect for the men and women who protect us every day. When I hear Senators say that we should not provide Federal assistance, we should not help officers get the protection they need with bulletproof vests, or that we should not help the families of fallen public safety officers, I strongly disagree. In our Federal system, we can help and when we can, we should help. And that is exactly the opportunity that is before us today. We have the power to help improve the lives of millions of people in this country by renewing and expanding our commitment to end domestic and sexual violence. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, found that more than 24 people per minute are the victims of rape, domestic violence and stalking in this country. We can take action to change that and we must.

I am proud that our bill seeks to support all victims, regardless of their immigration status, their sexual orientation or their membership in an Indian tribe. As I have said countless times on the floor of this chamber, ``a victim is a victim is a victim.''

I appreciate the administration's support for this legislation and our goal in reaching all victims. In particular, I note the support of the administration in its Statement of Administration Policy for our bipartisan proposal, first developed by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, to ``bring justice to Native American victims.'' Three out of five Native women have been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners. We can no longer idly stand by while this epidemic of abuse continues.

The language in the bill is that which the Senate adopted last April. The best legal views of which I am aware believe these provisions are both constructive and constitutional. We are building on the Tribal Law and Order Act and recognizing tribal authorities with respect to domestic violence in Indian country. No one should be able to get away with domestic violence and rape, not in any community, and not because the victim is a Native American victim in Indian country. I ask unanimous consent that a copy of the Statement of Administration Policy expressing the administration's strong support for this provision and the bill as a whole, be made part of the Record at the end of my statement.

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Mr. LEAHY. The bottom line is this: While we have made great strides in reducing domestic and sexual violence, there is more to be done and it is incumbent upon us to act now. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act has been carefully considered and debated for more than 2 years. It is time we vote and send this bill to the House of Representatives so that it can be enacted. Let us not undermine the provisions to help protect Indian women and other particularly vulnerable victims from the serious problems they face.

I hope the Senate will come together to reauthorize this needed legislation in a bipartisan manner that represents the finest traditions of the Senate. Domestic and sexual violence knows no political party. Its victims are Republican and Democrat, rich and poor, young and old, gay and straight, male and female. Let us come together now--today--to pass this strong reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Let us show the American people what we can accomplish when we work together.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I thank the Senator for her words. The Senator from Washington State has been a consistent and clear supporter of the Violence Against Women Act. I especially applaud what she said: It should apply to all victims. I have said so many times on this floor, and I sometimes wonder if people hear, but certainly in my experience in law enforcement the police never asked and said, well, we can't help this victim unless they fall into a particular category. They said a victim is a victim is a victim, and a crime is a crime is a crime.

We didn't have the Violence Against Women Act when I and my colleagues around the country were in law enforcement. I cannot help but think of all the deaths that would have been prevented had we had something like this, all the violence that would have been prevented if there had been organizations like some of the actual ones we have in Vermont and other States supported by the Violence Against Women Act that have prevented violence.

I cannot imagine any Member of this body would oppose this law if it affected them or their families. We, as Americans, are all family, so it affects every one of us.

I again thank the Senator from Washington State for her comments.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I know the senior Senator from New Hampshire is about to speak regarding the Violence Against Women Act. I would like to take a moment to thank her for all the work she has done in her State and in the Senate to help advance this legislation.

Senator Shaheen and I are from rural States. We border each other. The Connecticut River runs down the border between our two States. We have so much in common. We face some of the same difficulties of weather and rural nature, and, of course, in a rural State there is the question of access to transportation. Senator Shaheen was the one who brought up, based on her experience in New Hampshire, that women were having trouble getting to crisis centers and courts. Of course, we have a similar challenge in a rural State such as mine. But Senator Shaheen worked with the Department of Justice to address this problem. As a result, the Office on Violence Against Women is now allowing rural communities to obtain VAWA grant funding for transportation needs.

A number of the women who are going to be getting this transportation and desperately need it may not know how that came about, but I wish to congratulate Senator Shaheen on her successful efforts on behalf of not just women in New Hampshire or Vermont but throughout the country--again, another example of what we are doing with this bill and the necessity to finish this bill. I hope we can finish it today.

I thank the Senator for yielding to me.

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