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Public Statements

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to speak about the legislation we are about to discuss here, the Violence Against Women Act.

Before I do, I want to respond to a comment I heard by the Republican leader on the floor right now talking about the impact of sequestration, which is to go into effect March 1 unless Congress acts to replace it with something that is more balanced. Sequestration was never written into law to go into effect. Sequestration was put into law in order for us, Congress, to come together in a bipartisan way to find a balanced solution. That is still the case. I feel very strongly that if Members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, can come together with a balanced package that takes into account sequestration causing severe impact to our national defense, to our nondefense programs such as Head Start and education at a time when our economy is very fragile--the impact of the job cuts on that would be very severe. Democrats believe, just as we did throughout this process, if we put forward a balanced replacement that includes revenue, making sure that those wealthy Americans who have done very well and have not had to sacrifice are part of a replacement package that we can move through this Congress, this will ensure, as we put forward a balanced budget approach for the future and work for a long-term deficit stabilization process, we can get past this hurdle.

There is no reason we need to manage crisis by crisis if we can come together on a balanced approach that does include revenue. This is what Americans expect--everybody participates in making sure that our economy gets back on track, we don't just protect the wealthiest, but we ask them to do their part.

I look forward to working with anybody in this body to do this so we don't face the impacts of sequestration that would happen if we don't have that balanced plan.

Speaking about the Violence Against Women Act, which is the order of business today, I come to the floor this morning to continue the efforts that we did start here 9 months ago, efforts that were, in fact, overwhelmingly bipartisan--68 Senators--to finally renew our national commitment to ending domestic violence and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. It is a bill that has successfully helped provide life-saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of women and families, and it is a bill that consistently extends protections to new communities of vulnerable Americans each and every time it has been authorized.

I wish to thank Senator Leahy and Senator Crapo for making the Violence Against Women Act a priority for reintroduction in the 113th Congress, because there is no reason this critical bill, which has such broad support, should be put on the back burner and delayed further while there are millions of Americans across our country who are excluded from the current law. In fact, for Native, immigrant women, and LGBT individuals, every moment our inclusive legislation to reauthorize VAWA is delayed is another moment they are left without the resources and protection they deserve.

For women on tribal lands, the challenges are particularly immense. Often in our very rural areas, on tribal lands, these women live hours and hours away from the nearest Federal prosecutors.

For nontribal members on these lands who perpetrate these violent crimes against the women who are living there, it equates to nothing short of a safe haven for them. It is a place where they are free from tribal jurisdiction and repeatedly commit horrific acts without being afraid of being brought to justice.

This is an injustice that Deborah Parker, the vice chairwoman of the Tulalip tribes in my home State, spoke to just outside this Chamber last year in an effort to get House Republicans to listen. Through her tears she told a deeply personal story about how not only was she abused as a young girl, but how she then watched family members and friends suffer similar fates. She spoke about how time and again the abusers went unprosecuted, only to repeat the crime over and over. She called herself ``a Native American statistic.'' Even more sadly, she was right.

In fact, the numbers are staggering. One in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime. One in three. Two in five of them are victims of domestic violence, and they are killed at 10 times the rate of the national average. These shocking statistics aren't isolated to one group of women, as 25 to 35 percent of women in the LGBT community experience domestic violence in relationships. Three in four abused immigrant women never entered the process to obtain legal status, even though they were eligible, because their abuser husbands never filed the paperwork.

It does not need to be this way. I was very proud to be here serving the Senate back in 1994 when we first passed the Violence Against Women Act. Since we took that historic step, VAWA has been a great success in coordinating victims' advocates, social service providers, and law enforcement officials to meet the immediate challenges of combating domestic violence. Along with bipartisan support, this has received praise from law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, victim service providers, faith leaders, health care professionals, advocates, and survivors.

VAWA has attained such broad support because it worked. It provides shelter and justice to battered women who need both, and it is the cornerstone of our efforts to combat domestic violence. We can't pick winners and losers on who gets these critical protections, and we cannot afford any further delay, not on this bill.

Just like the last Congress, we all know what it would take to move this bill forward--leadership from Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor. The fate of the Violence Against Women Act lies squarely on their shoulders. To date they have refused to listen to countless law enforcement and women's groups, as well as moderate voices in their own party who have called on them to pass the Senate's bipartisan and inclusive bill.

In this new Congress, on this newly introduced bipartisan bill, the House Republican leadership faces the same choice and a second chance. They can either appease those on the far right of their caucus, who would turn battered women away from care, or they can stand with Democrats, moderate Republicans, and the many millions of Americans who believe that who a person loves, where they live, or their immigration status, should not determine whether they are protected from violence in this country.

In fact, in a recent editorial the Seattle Times echoed this same sentiment:

House Republican leaders refused to bring the original Senate bill forward for a vote. They must not squander a second chance to save lives.

I couldn't agree more. Too many women have been left vulnerable while House Republican leaders have played politics. It is time for moderate Republican voices in the House to call upon them to pass this bipartisan Senate bill immediately, because women's lives across the country literally depend on it.

The Senator from Vermont, Mr. Leahy, has led the charge on this bill. I wish to thank him publicly, as he is on the floor right now, for his work, for the first bill he has put forward for this body to consider. It is time to move on it, and I want him to know how much I truly appreciate all of his efforts in getting this done. This is for all women in this country, for Native American women, whom I have talked about, in particular, who have suffered at the hands of their abusers for so long, and for all of our women in this country, whoever they are, wherever they come from, to know that this Senate in a bipartisan way stands behind them.

I yield the floor.

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