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Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. HATCH. Madam President, today the Senate should have been able overwhelmingly to support reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, but the majority made that impossible. In fact, S. 47 is not really a reauthorization bill but a bill to use the Violence Against Women Act to venture into new ideological territory. For that reason, I cannot support S. 47 but am a cosponsor of the true VAWA reauthorization bill introduced by my colleague from Iowa, Senator Grassley.

Two decades ago during the 103rd Congress, as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, I worked with Chairman Joe Biden to develop legislation to combat domestic violence and sexual assault against women. That first passage of the Violence Against Women Act had bipartisan support, although it was by no means without controversy. I took more than my share of criticism from the right, but it was the right thing to do, and I worked to promote a genuine bipartisan consensus behind this legislation.

In 2000, I again cosponsored the Violence Against Women Act which was included in the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, and the Senate voted 95-to-0 for the conference report. I cosponsored the VAWA reauthorization bill again in 2005, and this time the Senate passed it by unanimous consent without even a roll call vote. Clearly, the trend has been toward broader support.

Unfortunately, the majority today has deliberately stopped that trend. The majority has insisted on injecting into this legislation highly controversial and divisive provisions that were guaranteed to fracture the growing support that VAWA has enjoyed in the past. Many of us asked them not to do it this way but to address these issues separately so that there could be hearings and proper debate. Instead, the majority chose to use VAWA as cover for sidestepping the legislative process on these issues.

Let me give just one example. One of those divisive issues concerns the jurisdiction of courts on Native American reservations. Section 904 of S. 47 would give tribal courts jurisdiction over nontribal individuals in domestic violence cases. This presents numerous constitutional problems. Native American reservations are sovereign nations, and key provisions of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights have been interpreted not to apply there. This legislation lists certain rights to be afforded nontribal defendants but not only stops short of guaranteeing all constitutional rights but also does not provide for direct review of convictions in U.S. courts. I simply cannot support depriving American citizens of constitutional rights and judicial protection.

I want to applaud my colleague from Texas, Senator Cornyn, who has been trying mightily to correct this grave constitutional defect in S. 47. He has negotiated in good faith in a principled and fair way. Like me, he wants to support reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. But like him, I will do so only on the appropriate constitutional and policy grounds.

I have cosponsored the Violence Against Women Act three times. I voted last year to reauthorize it and will do so again today. But while I support reauthorizing VAWA, I cannot support using VAWA as a vehicle to enact divisive and controversial new measures that have not been properly evaluated on their own terms. Had the majority taken the same approach as we did in 2000 and 2005, this legislation would have been passed and signed into law months ago. Instead, the majority has destroyed the bipartisan consensus in favor of unconstitutional and divisive efforts to favor special interests.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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