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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, before I go on to that, I would note that many have come to this floor to talk about the deficit and things of that nature. I ask anybody who is decrying our deficit if they voted for a needless war in Iraq and then voted to put it on the credit card.

The war in Iraq has cost this Nation nearly $1 trillion so far, and with all the wounded who have come back from this unnecessary war, we will, beyond the lifetime of most of us, still be paying for that.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the only wars in America's history we did not have a special tax to pay for--both were put on a credit card. They were begun at a time when the last administration had inherited a large surplus from the Democratic administration before it. Since I have been old enough to vote, only Democratic administrations have left surpluses. But they took that surplus, wasted it on the war in Iraq, and because they were unwilling to pay for this war--a war that was paid for only by the men and women who served and their families; we don't have a draft--most people can say: It didn't affect me. Well, it affected those families enormously, and it will affect every single taxpayer for the rest of their lives because it will take that long to pay for a war that so many in this body and the other body voted for but then stood up and said: We cannot possibly have taxes to pay for things we are spending money on. That is one thing they voted for--for the first time in the history of this country, they voted to not pay for a war.

I urge everybody not to lose sight of the fact that a major part of our deficit was caused by the House and Senate voting for a war we never should have been in, one I voted against. In fact, everybody who actually read the intelligence material voted against it. Now our children and our grandchildren will have to pay for our mistakes.

I don't want to hear lectures about our deficit from people who voted to help create that deficit by voting for an unnecessary war.

On the subject we are on, S. 47, after more than a week of consideration, the Senate will finally vote on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. This is a good bill that makes needed changes recommended by victims and those who work with them every day. I urge all those Senators who have opposed reauthorizing VAWA to end their opposition and join with us. 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. They rejected the ideological opposition of Heritage and the Family Research Council. They recognize that VAWA is effective, efficient and successful ``in curbing domestic violence and supporting victims,'' and that ``VAWA programs save lives.'' They also note, as I have said repeatedly on this floor: ``VAWA must reach all victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in every community in the country.''

I ask unanimous consent that a copy of the Republican members' letter to Speaker Boehner be printed in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks.

The Senate has rejected the Republican substitute and defeated the Coburn amendment to strip the tribal jurisdiction provisions that have been included in the Senate bill for the past two years. Those amendments would have greatly narrowed VAWA's ability to prevent crime and help victims and would have undercut our commitment to all victims of rape and domestic violence. I hope Senators will continue to vote against amendments that weaken this important legislation.

This morning the Senate has the opportunity to vote for an amendment that goes in the opposite direction from the Coburn amendments by allowing us to help more victims of serious crime in the United States and around the world. This morning the Senate is to vote on the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. That is another bipartisan bill that was written with the input of victims and service providers to make critical improvements to existing law. Last year, this legislation had 57 cosponsors--including 15 Republicans. In particular, I thank Senator Rubio who has been a strong cosponsor of this important measure.

Today is February 12, the day on which Abraham Lincoln was born. It was 150 years ago that he delivered the Emancipation Proclamation and it would be fitting that the Senate pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act on his birthday. Although the 13th amendment to our Constitution was ratified long ago, making slavery illegal, we continue to fight human trafficking, which can amount to modern day slavery. This terrible crime still occurs throughout the world--including in the United States of America. The Polaris Project estimates that there are more than 27 million victims of human trafficking worldwide today.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act will help us continue to make real progress on this issue. It is a parallel effort to our reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Our effort is to stop human trafficking at its roots by supporting both domestic and international efforts to fight against trafficking and to punish its perpetrators. We provide critical resources to help support victims as they rebuild their lives.

This measure strengthens criminal anti-trafficking statutes to ensure that law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to effectively combat all forms of trafficking. It ensures better coordination among Federal agencies, between law enforcement and victim service providers, and with foreign countries to work on every facet of this complicated problem. It includes measures to encourage victims to come forward and report this terrible crime, which leads to more prosecutions and help for more victims.

We have included accountability measures to ensure that Federal funds are used for their intended purposes, and we have streamlined programs to focus scarce resources on the approaches that have been the most successful. A Senator asserted yesterday that trafficking programs have been wasteful and duplicative. In fact, the programs supported by this amendment have been carefully tracked and shown to be effective. Nonetheless, the amendment reduces authorization levels by almost a third from the levels in the last reauthorization because we are determined to ensure efficiency and respond to concerns. We have made similar efforts to streamline VAWA.

The United States remains a beacon of hope for so many who face human rights abuses. We know that young women and girls often just 11, 12, or 13 years old are being bought and sold. We know that workers are being held and forced into labor against their will. I urge all Senators to join in passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. People in this country and millions around the world are counting on us.

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I have already spoken about this, and I want to reiterate what I said earlier. Our country, justifiably so, is a beacon of hope for so many who face human rights abuses. I think of what is written on the iconic Statue of Liberty; so many people come to our shores for freedom. We also know there are many who are being held in these despicable trafficking schemes around the world. There are children who are 11, 12, 13 years old being held, and we have to speak for them.

I hope all Senators will join me in voting for this amendment. There are protections for victims of trafficking in the reauthorization act. It is a bipartisan bill written with the input of victims and service providers. It helps us to more effectively fight human trafficking, which is really modern-day slavery. Whether people are trafficked in the sex trade--especially children--or in forced labor, it is slavery. It is not isolated. There are 27 million victims worldwide today according to the Polaris Project. This amendment will help us to stop it by supporting both domestic and international efforts to fight against trafficking.

Just as important as it is to help us punish the perpetrators, the amendment will help us rebuild the lives of those caught up in it. We know funds are always limited. We put in accountability measures to ensure the Federal funds are used for their intended purposes.

Let us continue to have the United States as a beacon of hope to people around the world.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record letters in support of amendment 21, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, to S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, we are going to vote in a couple minutes, but I would reiterate what I said earlier. This is going to be a vote on the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. It is a bill that was written with the input of victims and service providers. Last year, we had 57 cosponsors, including 15 Republicans.

I do want to thank Senator Rubio, who was on the floor a few minutes ago speaking about it.

I could not help but think, as I said earlier, when I looked at the calendar today, February 12--the day on which Abraham Lincoln was born; and 150 years ago, he delivered the Emancipation Proclamation--wouldn't it be great if the Senate passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act on President Lincoln's birthday?

I also said earlier today that the Senate should be--often is--the conscience of the Nation. I have to imagine that the conscience of the vast majority of our 300 million Americans--whether they are Republicans or Democrats; liberals, moderates, or conservatives; Independents--their conscience would rebel against the idea of, really, slave trafficking, whether it is people trapped in the sex trade or in factories where they face the possibility, if there is a fire, they are all going to die because they are forced to be there.

Let's speak. Let's speak to the conscience of this country.

Mr. President, have the yeas and nays been ordered on my amendment?

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Mr. LEAHY. I agree with the Senator from Ohio. I am perfectly willing to accept this amendment by a voice vote, and I do support it.

I am encouraged that the Senate has voted to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which will let us make real progress in helping victims of human trafficking. I worked with Senator Rubio last Congress to reauthorize and improve our antitrafficking law and needed programs. We were stymied by an anonymous Republican objection. Today we achieved a breakthrough when the Senate voted to approve the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

I thank Senators from both sides of the aisle who have rejected the cramped view of the Heritage Foundation and joined with us to make progress on this important issue, to help victims and to help prevent human trafficking. The vote the Senate just took to approve vital antitrafficking legislation will ensure that resources and services get to trafficking victims in ways shown to work. By our action, we are improving and strengthening antitrafficking programs.

I do not wish to conflate or confuse the two issues. The Violence Against Women Act provides programs for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Trafficking is different, a unique form of abuse with separate programs designed to address it in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

When trafficking victims also experience sexual assault, they can also access programs funded through VAWA for sexual assault victims. The Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act explicitly provides that VAWA programs are to help victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. That includes trafficking victims. That language was carefully crafted with advocates for victims of those crimes.

Accordingly, I believe that amendment 10 is unnecessary. It duplicates and reiterates what the bill already provides. So long as it does not harm and does not create confusion, I support it. The Senator from Oklahoma may accuse us of providing duplicative programs, but no one is going to subject themselves to sexual assault just because they might be eligible for a VAWA program or help from a trafficking program. No individual victim is going to somehow profit at taxpayers' expense. The amendment is accepted merely as further clarification of the availability of VAWA programs to children who are both victims of trafficking and sexual assault. Sex trafficking victims are by definition also sexual assault victims.

I am not in favor of confusing program administrators or taking program funds away from victims of rape and domestic violence. I have worked hard not to pit victims against each other. Instead, I have tried to provide for the needs of all victims.

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Mr. LEAHY. The bipartisan Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act already reduces authorization levels and adds important accountability measures. These are careful, appropriate, and effective steps. The Coburn amendment would mandate sweeping cuts which would decimate programs. The amendment is opposed by law enforcement, including the National Association of Police Organizations, and by the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women.

Of course we all want to combat fraud, waste, and abuse. But this amendment is not the way to do it. The amendment purports to be based on findings by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, GAO, but it misconstrues those findings. The amendment states that the GAO identified $3.9 billion in ``duplicative'' grants programs. That is simply not the case. The July 2012 GAO report states that the total amount of grants awarded by the Justice Department in fiscal year 2010 was only $3.6 billion. You cannot have $3.9 billion in duplication when the total amount of grant money awarded was less than that.

More importantly, the GAO report did not actually conclude that there was duplication. The July report said there was ``the potential risk of unnecessary duplication'' and recommended that the Justice Department conduct an assessment to determine if grant programs could be consolidated to mitigate that risk. The GAO did not recommend any funding cuts and certainly did not recommend the $780 million cut that this amendment would require. As I have noted, our bill already includes a 17-percent cut in authorizations.

The amendment offered by Senator Coburn requires the Department of Justice to gut key grant programs. It would mandate that the Department cut at least $780 million from its grant programs, many of which provide critical funding to law enforcement and victim service providers. This would have devastating effects on victims of rape and domestic violence, and I urge Senators to vote against it.

The amendment tries to sugarcoat the damage it will do by reference to untested rape kits. In fact, it is the amendment that is duplicative. We have established the Debbie Smith Act to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits and the Leahy-Crapo bill already includes measures to reduce the backlog through core VAWA programs and through the inclusion of the SAFER Act.

By gutting grant programs to law enforcement and victims, the Coburn amendment does not help victims of rape, who rely on victim service providers funded with these grants and on law enforcement who count on Federal support. Mandating vast cuts in programs for victims and law enforcement at a time when those programs are already being squeezed is bad policy. These grant programs save lives. The amendment is bad for victims and bad for law enforcement. I urge Senators to oppose it.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record letters in opposition to amendment No. 15 to S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

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