After months of partisan delay, the US Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday, reauthorizing protections from domestic violence and sexual assault for millions of women. The bill — a reauthorization of legislation first enacted in 1994 but which includes new protections — passed…
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Today, I am presenting a guest blog by my dear friend and colleague Pat Reuss. Pat describes herself as “a longtime women’s rights activist pretending to be retired and currently serving as a policy adviser to NOW [National Organization for Women] and the National Task Force [to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women].”
Pat has a history several decades-long advocating for a comprehensive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). She first started working on this issue in the early 1990’s. At that time, she worked as the policy director for what was then called the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (now known as Legal Momentum). In that capacity, she worked very closely with then Senator, now Vice-President Joe Biden to write the first VAWA passed by Congress and signed into law in 1994.
This is Pat’s statement calling on anti-violence advocates to contact their representative in the US House of Representatives to vote for the comprehensive Senate-passed version to reauthorize VAWA:
The Republican’s version of VAWA, which substitutes the Senate’s inclusive, comprehensive version of S.47 for a bill that excludes effective protections for LGBT, immigrant, tribal and campus victims, will likely be on the House floor this Thursday. The National Task Force [to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women] (NTF) and NOW oppose this [House substitute] bill. We need to call our Representatives and firmly ask them to vote against the House Republican Leader’s substitute VAWA and ask them to vote for the field-approved VAWA passed in the Senate.
Tomorrow [February 27], Representatives Issa (R-CA) and Cole (R-OK) will ask the Rules committee to allow them to offer an amendment to replace the House’s flawed tribal provisions with improved language that will provide effective, constitutionally sound protections for Native victims of domestic violence. Call your Representatives and ask them to tell House leadership to accept these amendments.
78 Senators from both parties and over 1,300 local, state and national professional and policy organizations support the Senate-passed bill as do law enforcement officials, health care professionals, community program and service providers, and the tens of millions of survivors and their families, friends and loved ones who rely on and have benefited from and used the services and resources provided by the 19-year-old law.
It must be noted that after months of tireless efforts by advocates working with the Republican leadership staff, there are some small but very important improvements in this substitute and the bill is not the punitive version of last year’s House bill.
That said, the [House] Republican version of the bill fails victims in a number of critical ways:
- Fails to include the LGBT provisions from the Senate bill.
- Fails to include “stalking” among the list of crimes covered by the U visa (a critical law enforcement tool that encourages immigrant victims to assist with the investigation or prosecution of certain enumerated crimes); current law already includes domestic violence and sexual assault, among others, and the Senate bill’s inclusion of “stalking” recognizes the serious threat this crime poses to safety.
- Provides non-tribal batterers with additional tools to manipulate the justice system, takes away existing protections for Native women by limiting existing tribal power to issue civil orders of protection against non-Native abusers, while weakening protections for Native women.
- Contains harsh administrative penalties and hurdles for small struggling programs and an additional layer of bureaucracy through the office of the Attorney General.
- Drops important provisions in the Senate bill that deal with improving campus safety and that work toward erasing the rape kit backlog.
- Weakens protections for victims in public housing.
We must oppose this partisan substitute and pass the Senate version of VAWA. 201 Democrats are sponsors of H.R. 11, the House replica of the Senate bill as introduced. 19 Republican Representatives have asked the House Republican leaders to pass a bipartisan bill that “reaches all victims” and dozens more Republicans support some or all of the Senate provisions that are not included in the Republican VAWA imposter.
BIPARTISAN ACTION ITEM: Call your Democratic House members to ensure that they will oppose the Republican leadership’s substitute and support the “real” S. 47, the Senate passed bill.
Find out if your Republican Representative is one of the 19 who supports a bipartisan, inclusive VAWA and ask them step up and to oppose the Republican leader’s substitute and demand and support a vote on the Senate bill:
- Call or email the 19 (Poe R-TX and Ros-Lehtinen R-FL have added their names) who signed the letter to House leadership. See letter and signatories here. Names and contact information here.
- Call or email the 7 Members who voted against last years’ harmful, non-inclusive Republican VAWA.
- Call or write the 26 House members who have interest in one or some of the Senate’s inclusive provisions.
Update Wednesday evening February 26:
Thanks to your calls and emails and tweets (or however you interacted with your US Rep,), it looks like our push-back to stop the watered-down version of VAWA is starting to work.
A Politico.com report at 6:48 this evening (February 26) states that “House Republicans seem to be resigned that their version of the Violence Against Women Act is a loser with their own members and are likely to pass the Senate bill this week without changes.”
Let’s keep up the pressure. Call your Representative tomorrow and tell him/her to vote for the original Senate version of S.47.