American Family Economic Protection Act of 2013—Motion to Proceedby Senator Patrick J. Leahy
Posted on 2013-02-28
LEAHY. Madam President, I thank the distinguished Senator from
Pennsylvania for allowing me to go first. I assure him I will be very
brief. I know the distinguished Senator from Washington State is here.
She has an interest in what I am going to say because of her very
strong support of the Violence Against Women bill.
Earlier this month, the Senate came together in the best tradition of the chamber to pass the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act with a strong bipartisan vote. I am happy to report that the House of Representatives just passed the Senate-passed bill. This vital legislation will now go to the President, and it will be signed into law. It will help victims of rape and domestic violence and victims of human trafficking who could not wait another day for us to act. This action of Congress will prevent terrible crimes and help countless victims rebuild their lives.
Today Congress showed that we still can act in a bipartisan way. I thank Senator Crapo for being my partner on this legislation from the beginning, and I was glad when he and Senator Murkowski, another steadfast supporter, joined me on a bipartisan letter earlier this week asking Speaker Boehner to pass this legislation to help all victims of domestic and sexual violence. Today, the House followed the Senate's example, and listened to the call from thousands of survivors of violence and law enforcement by passing this fully-inclusive, life- saving legislation with a bipartisan vote.
We made the Violence Against Women Act our top priority this Congress but it should not have taken this long. Our bill was written with the input of law enforcement, victims, and the people who work with victims every day to address real needs. None of the commonsense changes it included should have been controversial. Still, at a time when we face gridlock and stonewalling on even the most compelling issues, I am glad to see that we could find a way to cut through all of that to help victims of violence.
This new law will make lives better. It will encourage and fund practices proven to help law enforcement and victim service providers reduce domestic violence homicides. It will lead to more investigation and prosecution of rape and sexual assault crimes and more services provided to victims of those crimes. It will also help eliminate backlogs of untested rape kits to help those victims receive justice and security promptly.
This reauthorization, like every VAWA reauthorization before it, takes new steps to ensure that we can reach the most vulnerable victims whose needs are not being met. For the first time, it guarantees that all victims can receive needed services, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This law strengthens protections for vulnerable immigrant victims. It ensures that colleges and universities will do more to protect students from domestic and sexual violence. This reauthorization also takes important new steps to combat the appalling epidemic of domestic violence on tribal lands and to ensure that no perpetrators of this terrible crime are above the law.
The bill that the President will sign also includes the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which continues and strengthens effective programs to help us take on the scourge of human trafficking. It is unacceptable that 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the evils of sex trafficking and labor trafficking, forms of modern day slavery, still exist around the world and even in the United States. It has been too difficult, but I am glad that Congress is finally acting once again to address trafficking.
I will never forget going as a young prosecutor to crime scenes at 2:00 in the morning and seeing the victims of these awful crimes. As we worked on this bill, I heard the moving stories in hearings and rallies and meetings of those who survived true horrors and had the courage to share their stories in the hopes that others could be spared what they went through. We have finally come together to honor their courage and take the action they demanded.
I thank the many Senators and Representatives of both parties who have helped to lead this fight, and the leadership of both Houses who have prioritized moving this vital legislation. I thank Representative Cole for his steadfast dedication to help preserve the protections for Native women. But most of all, I thank the tireless victims, advocates, and service providers who have given so much of themselves to ensure that this legislation would pass and that, when it did, it would make a real difference. Lives will be better because of their work and because of this law.
I yield the floor and thank my colleagues.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania is recognized.