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Providing for Consideration of S.47, Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, good afternoon.

I thank the gentleman for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, when I joined my former colleague, Representative Pat Schroeder of Colorado, to write the original Violence Against Women Act, it didn't occur to us to exclude or discriminate against anyone. And in the multiple times the law has been reauthorized, we, as a legislature, have always tried to ensure that all victims of domestic violence receive the protections under the law.

As my colleague pointed out, up till now they have. Unfortunately, the latest attempt to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act has been different. This time, the majority has alternately tried to pass extreme legislation that would weaken current law and rejected calls to pass bipartisan legislation that would strengthen the current law.

On February 12, with 23 Republican Senators voting in favor, including every Republican woman in the Senate, they approved a reauthorization that is both comprehensive and inclusive in nature. Unfortunately, instead of allowing a clean, up-or-down vote on this bipartisan bill, the majority leadership proposed a substitute amendment that removes key provisions from that bill.

For example, the leadership's amendment fails to explicitly protect LGBT victims, and limits protections for immigrants. At the same time, the amendment fails to close the legal loopholes that leave Native American victims of domestic violence with nowhere to turn.

Additionally, despite the high rate of dating violence and sexual assault on college campuses, the amendment entirely omits protections for young women who are victimized in college. And that's why the majority's amendment is opposed by groups including the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, the National Congress of American Indians, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, among many others.

It's dismaying that some in the majority want to weaken a strong bipartisan Senate bill, and it's vital that this Chamber reject their alternative partisan amendment.

With the votes we are about to take, we will be asked to choose between an amendment that fails to protect some victims of domestic violence, and the bipartisan Senate bill protecting all victims. The choice is so clear.

We'll be asked to choose between an amendment opposed by victims and victims' rights advocates and a bipartisan bill. And when looking at those options that are before us, it is clear what we must do. I strongly urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the substitute amendment tomorrow to the Senate bill, so the original Senate legislation will receive a vote in the House.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment and talk about the incredible impact the Violence Against Women bill has had since it was enacted. Thanks to that Act, instances of domestic violence have fallen by 67 percent, and over 1 million people have obtained protective orders against their batterers.

Before the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, police officers were not trained to separate a victim and abuser when they responded to a domestic violence call. Thanks to the law, the police officers are now trained to do just that, a most important change that stopped violence from resuming the moment the police left and the front door closed.

But perhaps the greatest victory of the Violence Against Women Act is that the law finally brought millions of victims out of the shadows and gave them a place to stand.

In 1994, domestic violence in our country was not even discussed, and its scars were never acknowledged. And as a result, the victims often became abusers in a cycle of violence that simply wouldn't end. We wrote the law to stop that cycle of violence, and we think we have achieved much of that. For 18 years, this law gave victims a choice and made incredible progress in ending the cycle of violence.

Every time we've renewed the law, our goal has been the same: to ensure that all victims of domestic violence, no matter their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their age or their gender, are acknowledged and helped and protected by the law.

It has been now more than 500 days since the Violence Against Women Act expired. Today is the day that ends, and we act in the name of justice. I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the exclusionary substitute amendment tomorrow so we can vote ``yes'' and get this bill to the President right away.

Now, in addition, I want to mention on the previous question, today we're going to have an opportunity to stop the sequester, which is scheduled, as you know, to take effect in just 2 days.

We all know all the harms. We know very well what the sequester is going to do to the economy and to the workforce in the United States. And most importantly, we know that we cannot afford such a slowdown.

Now, today we're going to give Members of the House an opportunity to vote on a sequester solution. If we defeat the previous question--and please pay attention: If you want to go on record against having the sequester go into effect, we are giving you an opportunity to do that.

By voting ``no'' on the previous question, you will allow the House to vote on a measure that Mr. Van Hollen, ranking member of the Budget Committee, has come to the Rules Committee three times with to try to achieve the end of saving us from ourselves. Mr. Van Hollen's legislation would reduce the deficit in a balanced and responsible way but stop the devastating sequestration cuts.

Today is the last chance for the House of Representatives to stop the sequester. Despite what some have said, this Chamber has not passed a solution to the sequester during this Congress. It is vital that the inaction of the majority come to an end. We must take a step to stop the sequester today.

So let me urge you to vote ``no'' on the previous question if you wish to be on record saying you do not support the sequester, you do not want to see this damage done to the economy and to the United States and, incidentally, to our reputation in the country and in the rest of the world. Doing so will allow Mr. Van Hollen's legislation to have the serious debate and vote that it deserves.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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