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Patrick L.
Democrat VT

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  • Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

    by Senator Patrick J. Leahy

    Posted on 2013-02-07

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    LEAHY. Mr. President, first, I wish to applaud the distinguished leader Senator Reid for his statement. He has helped us over and over again to get this bill to the floor. The reason it is here is because of the action of the distinguished majority leader in getting it up here. I was pleased to hear his comments about hopefully finishing this today or tomorrow. Anyway, it should be done soon. This is a landmark law.

    The Senate has before it a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark law we enacted that has made a difference in women's lives. By providing new tools and resources to communities all around the country, we have helped bring the crimes of rape and domestic violence out of the shadows. The Federal Government stood with the women of this country and sent the message that we would no longer tolerate their treatment as second-class citizens. Our bill renews and reinforces that commitment.

    Ending violence against women is not an easy problem to solve but there is a simple and significant step we can take, right now and without delay. I, again, thank Majority Leader Reid for making this unfinished business from the last Congress a priority for the Senate early this year.

    Senator Crapo and I have worked hard to make this bill bipartisan and I am proud that it has more than 60 Senate cosponsors. It also has the support of more than 1,300 local, State and National organizations from around the country that work with victims every day and know just how critical this law has been. I included their most recent letter of support with my remarks on Monday. I, again, thank them for their tireless efforts.

    On Monday the Senate voted to proceed to consideration of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. I was disappointed to see that 13 Republican Senators did not vote to proceed to the bill. I do not know why. They did not say.

    I worry that there are Senators who do not appreciate the role of the Federal Government in helping improve the lives of Americans. That is what the Violence Against Women Act is intended to do and it is what this law has successfully accomplished for nearly 20 years. This is an example of how the Federal Government can help solve problems in cooperation with State and local communities. The fact is, women are safer today because of this law and there is no excuse not to improve upon it and reauthorize it without delay.

    We are working to protect victims--all victims--of domestic and sexual violence. I hope that those who previously opposed our efforts to improve the Violence Against Women Act will join with us and help the Senate send our strong bill to the House of Representatives so that we can get it enacted. Let us not undercut the provisions to help protect Indian women from the serious problems they face.

    If anyone needs a reminder of how important government help can be, just think about the way that Federal and local law enforcement worked together earlier this week to rescue Ethan, a 5-year-old kidnapped boy, from an underground bunker in Alabama, where he had been held hostage for almost a week. Ask the family and local law enforcement if they appreciated the help of the FBI, the Defense Department and so many who contributed to the safe return of that innocent victim.

    I spent years in local law enforcement and have great respect for the men and women who protect us every day. When I hear Senators say that we should not provide Federal assistance, we should not help officers get the protection they need with bulletproof vests, or that we should not help the families of fallen public safety officers, I strongly disagree. In our Federal system, we can help and when we can, we should help. And that is exactly the opportunity that is before us today. We have the power to help improve the lives of millions of people in this country by renewing and expanding our commitment to end domestic and sexual violence. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, found that more than 24 people per minute are the victims of rape, domestic violence and stalking in this country. We can take action to change that and we must.

    I am proud that our bill seeks to support all victims, regardless of their immigration status, their sexual orientation or their membership in an Indian tribe. As I have said countless times on the floor of this chamber, ``a victim is a victim is a victim.'' I appreciate the administration's support for this legislation and our goal in reaching all victims. In particular, I note the support of the administration in its Statement of Administration Policy for our bipartisan proposal, first developed by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, to ``bring justice to Native American victims.'' Three out of five Native women have been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners. We can no longer idly stand by while this epidemic of abuse continues.

    The language in the bill is that which the Senate adopted last April. The best legal views of which I am aware believe these provisions are both constructive and constitutional. We are building on the Tribal Law and Order Act and recognizing tribal authorities with respect to domestic violence in Indian country. No one should be able to get away with domestic violence and rape, not in any community, and not because the victim is a Native American victim in Indian country. I ask unanimous consent that a copy of the Statement of Administration Policy expressing the administration's strong support for this provision and the bill as a whole, be made [[Page S481]] part of the Record at the end of my statement.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    (See exhibit 1).

    Mr. LEAHY. The bottom line is this: While we have made great strides in reducing domestic and sexual violence, there is more to be done and it is incumbent upon us to act now. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act has been carefully considered and debated for more than 2 years. It is time we vote and send this bill to the House of Representatives so that it can be enacted. Let us not undermine the provisions to help protect Indian women and other particularly vulnerable victims from the serious problems they face.

    I hope the Senate will come together to reauthorize this needed legislation in a bipartisan manner that represents the finest traditions of the Senate. Domestic and sexual violence knows no political party. Its victims are Republican and Democrat, rich and poor, young and old, gay and straight, male and female. Let us come together now--today--to pass this strong reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Let us show the American people what we can accomplish when we work together.

    I yield the floor.

    Exhibit 1 Statement of Administration Policy S. 47--Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (Sen. Leahy, D-VT, and 59 cosponsors, Feb. 4, 2013) The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of S. 47 to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a landmark piece of bipartisan legislation that first passed the Congress in 1994 and has twice been reauthorized. VAWA transformed the Nation's response to violence against women and brought critically needed resources to States and local communities to address these crimes.

    The Administration is pleased that S. 47 continues that bipartisan progress and targets resources to address today's most pressing issues. Sexual assault remains one of the most underreported violent crimes in the country. The bill provides funding through State grants to improve the criminal justice response to sexual assault and to better connect victims with services. Further, the bill seeks to reduce domestic violence homicides and address the high rates of violence experienced by teens and young adults. Reaching young people through early intervention can break the cycle of violence.

    The Administration strongly supports measures in S. 47 that will bring justice to Native American victims. Rates of domestic violence against Native American women are now among the highest in the United States. The bill builds on the Tribal Law and Order Act--which President Obama signed on July 29, 2010--to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems and also recognize tribal authorities with respect to domestic violence in Indian country. The Administration is pleased that S. 47 recognizes the need to provide protection and services to all victims of abuse and includes proposals to strengthen existing policies that were supported by both Democrats and Republicans last year.

    Recognition of the Minority Leader Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I am going to proceed on my leader time.

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