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Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEAHY. The Senator from Oklahoma was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee when the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act was considered and approved. He was a member for many years and never came to me to raise this issue. It has not been considered and its potential consequences of cutting 20 percent of Federal assistance grants to states that help law enforcement and encourage arrests in sexual assault and domestic violence cases could be disastrous. It is the wrong way to go.

I think we all agree that victims of sexual assault should receive testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. The Leahy-Crapo bill already adds new coverage for HIV testing and services for sexual assault victims. There is also already a five percent penalty in the law for those who don't provide HIV testing.

However, the amendment would mandate that states force tests on defendants, those accused of crimes but not tried or convicted. To require such testing within 48 hours of information or indictment is practically difficult or impossible for many states and violates the state constitution in others. This amendment sets up requirements that many state and local governments cannot comply with and will cause states to lose millions in assistance that helps victims of rape and domestic violence.

The Senator from Oklahoma has consistently voted against VAWA. That is his right. But we should not make the programs more difficult for law enforcement and victims because he does not support them. This is not the right way to reduce government--by setting up government mandates that law enforcement cannot meet and then cutting their assistance funding when they cannot. I do not believe this one-size-fits-all mandate from Washington to our states is the right way to go.

A large majority of states are not in compliance with this provision and would lose crucial funds for preventing rape and domestic violence and helping victims. These funds are particularly important in difficult economic times, and cutting them would be devastating for victims. The amendment's mandate is overly proscriptive and intrusive and would result in a loss of crucial services to many victims. That is why the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women strongly opposes this amendment.

I am willing to work on even more ways to ensure that rape victims receive all needed treatment. But doing so with measures that will punish the rape victims themselves by denying them access to needed services is inhumane and counter-productive. I urge Senators to oppose this amendment.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record letters in opposition to amendment No. 16 to S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

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Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, would that it were so simple. The amendment is simply going to take protections away from thousands of women, and that is why I oppose it.

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Mr. LEAHY. As the Senate now votes on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, I hope we will join together in a strong bipartisan majority to pass this important legislation. Enactment of our bill to help all victims of domestic and sexual violence is overdue. Together we can finally finish what we started last year. We are deeply indebted to the women and men around the country who have been working with us and have been steadfast in their commitment to the victims and to our efforts to combat domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault.

The Violence Against Women Act has been effective at preventing crimes and protecting victims. But there is so much more to be done. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent survey found that one in four women has been the victim of severe physical domestic violence, and one in five women has been raped in her lifetime. More than half of the homicides in my state of Vermont are related to domestic violence. This is simply unacceptable. We can and we must do better.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the Leahy-Crapo bill last April. In the nearly 10 months since then, thousands of women around the country have been victimized. We have heard of too many cases, yet the vast majority of these crimes are never reported at all. I cannot help but feel that some of those crimes could have been prevented. Some of those victims could have gotten more assistance. Congress should not delay any longer.

Our bill offers support for those techniques already proven in the field that help identify high-risk cases and prevent domestic violence homicides. It will increase VAWA's focus on rape victims and push colleges to strengthen their efforts to protect students from domestic and sexual violence. This reauthorization will allow us to make real progress in addressing the horrifying epidemic of domestic violence in tribal communities. This bipartisan bill will allow services to get to those in the LGBT community who have had trouble accessing services in the past. The bill also includes key improvements for immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence.

All of these provisions were included because victims and the people who work with them every day told us they were needed to prevent crimes and provide better assistance to victims. We are trying to help victims and prevent crime. We have been working to get this bill through the Senate and to the House so we can quickly get a good bill to the President for his signature. We cannot afford further delay while more victims suffer unnecessarily.

I, again, thank the Majority Leader for making violence against women a priority for the Senate. We have been debating this measure since last Monday. We have considered a number of amendments. In the legislative process we have been able to make additional progress by adopting the bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, as well.

I noted at the outset of this debate that 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 is standing 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 are simple and significant steps we can take right now, without delay, by passing this legislation. We 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 1400 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 last Monday. I, again, thank them for their tireless efforts.

There remain some special interest lobbies and some Senators who do not appreciate the role of the Federal Government in helping improve the lives of Americans. It is disappointed that Heritage Action and the Family Research Council are urging opposition to our bipartisan bill. I hope that Senators will listen, instead, to the victims and to law enforcement and to the more than 1400 national, state, and local organizations that strongly support our Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.

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 last 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.

Every day across this nation we are reminded of the importance of programs like the Violence Against Women Act. Our bipartisan bill does more than protect victims of domestic violence. It also contains provisions to protect victims of stalking. This morning the Washington Post reported that a ``man stalking one of his victims shot and killed two women waiting to pass through metal detectors at a courthouse ..... Two male police officers also were struck by bullets ..... but were saved by their bullet-proof vests.'' This episode should remind us all that after working to reauthorize and reinvigorate the Violence Against Women Act, we must also reauthorize the Bullet Proof Vest program so that more of our law enforcement officials can be protected.

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 and strengthen our commitment against human trafficking. 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.'' The Violence Against Women Act is an example of how the Federal Government can help solve problems in cooperation with state and local communities. The fact is that 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 urge all Senators to look past the narrow, ideological opposition of some and join with us. That is what the former senior Senator from Texas, Senator Hutchison, did last year when her Republican substitute was rejected by the Senate.

I hope that despite 14 Republican Senators not voting to proceed to consider the bill and 35 Republican Senators supporting what was a poor substitute offered and rejected early in this debate, we will have a strong bipartisan vote for final passage. I urge those who previously opposed our efforts to improve the Violence Against Women Act to join with us and help the Senate send our strong bill to the House of Representatives so that we can get it enacted. Despite the predictions by some that the Republican House of Representatives will refuse to consider the Senate bill, as it did last year, I see reason for hope. Just yesterday 17 Republican members of the House wrote to their own leadership urging immediate reauthorization of VAWA.

I thank the many Senators who have helped shape this bill and have spoken is such strong support of it, including Senator Crapo, Senator Mikulski, Senator Murkowski, Senator Murray, Senator Klobuchar, Senator Coons, Senator Collins, Senator Shaheen, Senator Franken, Senator Hagan, Senator Casey, and so many others. I also thank their staffs and my own, including Kristine Lucius, Noah Bookbinder, Anya McMurray, Chris Leopold, Bryan Seeley, and Clark Flynt, for their countless hours of work away from their own families as we try to make all families safer and more secure.

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Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, I wanted to thank all my fellow Senators, from both parties, who voted for this bill. If you are someone who has seen firsthand the results of violence against women, it would be almost impossible to vote no on this bill. Will this stop all violence? No. But will it stop a lot of it? Yes; and it will also make possible for those who are caught in violence a chance for support, a chance for someplace to go, a chance to be protected from future attacks.

This is the kind of legislation that speaks to the conscience of our Nation. It speaks to the conscience of the Senate. It tells everybody, usually the most defenseless in our society, this body stands with you. I would urge our friends on the other side of the Capitol to move quickly with similar legislation. This is something we should not hold up. This is a way we can say: We oppose violence against women. We oppose it today. We oppose it tomorrow. We will oppose it forever.

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