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

    by Representative Tom Cole

    Posted on 2013-02-27

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    COLE. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the rule and the underlying legislation. This rule brings the Senate-passed version of VAWA to the floor and allows us to vote on House language to replace that version. I want to particularly thank my good friend, Chairman Sessions of the Rules Committee, for devising a rule that will help the House work its will on this important issue--and do so smoothly, fairly, and quickly.

    I want to particularly thank Leader Cantor for his hard work and effort to truly understand and deal with the problems that Native American women face. That part of our population, as many of my colleagues have learned during the course of this debate, is in many ways the most at-risk part of our population. One in three Native American women will be sexually assaulted in the course of her lifetime. The statistics on the failure to prosecute and hold accountable the perpetrators of those crimes are simply stunning. I'm very proud that both the Senate and the House have turned their attention to this issue and finally begun to give it the consideration that it merits. Again, I particularly want to thank Leader Cantor. The House version has improved tremendously over what this body passed in the last Congress; and that's due, in large measure, to his hard work.

    That being said, I cannot support the House version of VAWA. While it's made great strides in recognizing the jurisdictions of tribal courts over non-Indian offenders, it falls short of giving tribes what they need to keep their citizens protected from the scourge of domestic violence. Unlike the Senate version, the House version fails to recognize existing tribal sovereignty that's enshrined in the Constitution and has been recognized throughout the history of our country. The House version requires tribes to seek Department of Justice certification before exercising jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders. I cannot think of any example where one sovereign has to seek permission to exercise their rights as a sovereign. It doesn't make sense to ask [[Page H679]] tribes to willingly abdicate part of their sovereignty to exercise another part of their sovereignty.

    In the same vein, the House bill waives sovereign immunity on behalf of the tribes. As sovereigns, tribes should make that decision on whether or not to waive sovereign immunity. In the final analysis, Indian tribes and Indian women need help--and I don't think there's much debate about this in this body. And they prefer the Senate bill to the House bill. That settles the issue for me.

    I support this rule. I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the House amendment to the underlying bill, and I support the underlying bill that's been passed by the Senate.

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