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Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. PELOSI. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute.

Madam Speaker, when Congress enacted the original Violence Against Women Act nearly two decades ago, we sent a very clear and immediate message to the American people: no--and I emphasize ``no''--woman would ever be forced to suffer in silence in the face of abuse. No one would ever be forced to fear for their lives and their safety in their own homes because of domestic violence. That promise formed the foundation of our work then, and it has served as a cornerstone for our efforts in the years since to reauthorize and strengthen this landmark law.

Even as the times have changed, our commitments have remained the same, and strong, yet over the years we have always sought out ways to improve this legislation. Today on the floor of the House we will have a very clear choice. We have the choice to support the bipartisan legislation that has passed in the United States Senate. It passed 78-22. Seventy-eight percent of the Senate voted for this legislation. A majority of the Republicans in the Senate supported this legislation. All of the women in the Senate--Democrats and Republicans alike--support the bipartisan legislation that I hope we will have an opportunity to vote on today on the floor of the House.

In contrast, we have the House Republican proposal, which, while described in such lovely terms, is a step backward for the women in America and those who suffer domestic violence or sexual assault.

It's really hard to explain why, what eyes are the Republicans looking through, that they do not see the folly of their ways on this legislation that they are proposing. Not only is it much weaker than the Senate bill; it is much weaker than current law. And that is why whatever groups you want to name, whether it's 1,300 groups opposed from A to Y--we don't have a Z--any groups that have anything to do with this matter throughout our country, in every State, oppose the Republican legislation that is on the floor today.

This is what the American Bar Association has stated in its letter to Members in opposition to the Republican bill. It says:

The House substitute eliminates certain critical improvements and actually rolls back some provisions of the law that have been successful.

So let's understand the difference between these two pieces of legislation that are on the floor today. Our bill, again, a reflection of the bipartisan bill in the Senate, says to all American women: you will be protected. The Republican bill says to the women of America: we want to protect America's women, everybody step forward--who is an American woman. Not so fast if you're from the immigrant community, if you are a Native American, or if you happen to be part of the LGBT community.

It's just not right. America has always been, and our Constitution demonstrates, a country of expanding opportunity, protection, and diminishing discrimination. And today on the floor of the House, the Republican bill discriminates against a woman if she is lesbian or gay or whatever, LGBT, a member of that community; discriminates against a woman if she lives on a reservation and has been assaulted by someone not from the reservation; discriminates against women in terms of their immigration status--exactly the women who are the most vulnerable and who are in situations where there's a power over them, whether it's immigration law or whatever. The most in need of this bill are excluded by the Republican--the Republican proposal.

So this Republican proposal is nothing to be proud of. It must be defeated, and its defeat will enable us to bring to the floor the Senate's bipartisan, overwhelmingly passed and supported legislation which strengthens current law, not weakens it, and expands the legislation which was passed.

It has not been a bipartisan issue. I was here when the bill passed before. I saw the great work of Pat Schroeder and of Louise Slaughter, who argued so beautifully for this legislation yesterday as the ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee. I salute the work of Joe Biden, who was really the author. Without Vice President Biden, at that time there would not have been a Violence Against Women Act. I am so proud of the work of our chairman, a leader on this legislation then and now, Chairman John Conyers, former chair of the Judiciary Committee, now-ranking member. We will be hearing more from him shortly. He has been there steady and strong as a champion in the fight to end violence against women. Thank you.

Our legislation today, the Democratic proposal, is really a bipartisan proposal from the Senate that is authored and presented by Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin. Congresswoman Gwen Moore has shared her own personal story with us. The strength of her knowledge of the issue, whether it's knowledge of the legislation or knowledge of the trauma of domestic violence and assault, is something that has impressed so many of us. And when we pass this legislation--and we will--it will be in large measure because of her leadership, her persistence, her wisdom, her knowledge of this issue and the difference that every word in the legislation means in the homes of America and for women who are at risk.

Now, who thinks this is a good idea? I don't know. I hear the gentlewoman, who commands great respect in this body, describe this bill as if it is a good thing. It is not. Why does this take so long? It has been over 500 days, Madam Speaker, 500 days, my colleagues, since the expiration of the Violence Against Women Act. Last spring, almost 1 year ago, April of last year, the Senate, in a bipartisan way, passed the Violence Against Women Act--in a bipartisan way.

Months have gone by with no reauthorization. Congress ended. A new Congress came in, and the Senate, once again voted--and again in a strong, bipartisan way--for legislation. The House Republicans want to be odd man out on this, or odd person out on this, and have a bill that weakens current law as well as does not rise to the occasion of changing times that the Senate bill does.

Others of my colleagues will go into more of the specifics of it. It's just too much to put into the Record of all of the groups who oppose the House bill. It is almost unanimous. The only people who were holding out were those who were hopeful that something, that light would be shed on this, on the Republican side of the aisle. But this is a remarkable day because we have clarity. And between the two proposals that are coming forth, one of them has the support of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the House, and the President of the United States stands ready to sign it. The other is opposed by almost everybody that has anything to do with addressing the challenge of violence against women, and we have the documentation to prove that without going into the specifics.

I just want to say how proud I am of Congresswoman Gwen Moore. She comes from Wisconsin, and she is a respected leader in the House. She has made this, I would say, her life's work. But she has a number of things on her agenda. She has made a tremendous difference, not only in terms of this legislation, but more importantly in terms of what it means, what it means in the lives of America's women--all of America's women.

With that, Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. PELOSI. Madam Speaker, I have listened attentively to some of the comments made by those who support the House version of VAWA and they use words like ``all women,'' as the distinguished majority leader said. Not true in the Republican bill. Not all women if you're gay, if you are from the immigrant community, or if you happen to be living on a reservation.

I hear the appeal from a freshman Member, very eloquently stated, ``Why can't we work together and put partisanship aside?'' That's exactly what the Senate did, 78-22. A majority of the Republicans in the Senate voted for the far superior bill.

We've never had a perfect bill, you're absolutely right. But we have a far superior bill that expands protections, as opposed to the House bill which not only is not as good as the Senate bill, it diminishes protections already in the law.

I heard the gentlelady talk eloquently about the money and where it needs to go. It's sad to say that with sequestration, $20 million, according to a new estimate from the Justice Department, will be cut from the Violence Against Women account. That means approximately 35,927 victims of violence would not have access to lifesaving services and resources.

So the fact is people have come together on the Senate bill. The House agrees with their bipartisan position. The President stands ready to sign it. It's just the House Republicans that are odd people out on this.

It's hard to understand why you think ``some'' equals ``all.'' It doesn't. And that's why it's really important to reject the House version and support the Senate version.

I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California (Mr. Swalwell), a Member of our freshman class.

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