Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013—Motion to Proceedby Senator Chuck Grassley
Posted on 2013-02-04
GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I urge my colleagues, as I will do, to
support the motion to proceed to the Violence Against Women Act. I
expect that many of my Republican colleagues will also vote to proceed
to the bill.
There has long been bipartisan support for the Violence Against Women Act. Too many women are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. Federal support for services to these women, and sometimes even men, has been beneficial to our country.
There is overwhelming bipartisan support for 98 percent of what is contained in S. 47, so I favor proceeding to the bill and offering limited amendments. We can then have a Senate vote, allow the other body to work its will, resolve any differences between the bills, pass a compromised reauthorization bill through both Houses, and get it to the President.
The process on the Violence Against Women Act in the last Congress was very disappointing. Previously the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized unanimously. Something similar could have happened again last year, but it didn't. New provisions were brought forth into the bill. Some of the provisions were very controversial. Some provisions even raised serious constitutional concerns, but those on the other side insisted on these provisions without any change and refused to compromise. It appeared that the debate was more about blame and politics than it was about providing help to women in need.
In the last Congress, both the Republican leader and this Senator offered that the Senate consent to striking a provision which violated the Constitution's origination clause, and then proceed to conference. The majority spurned those efforts on both occasions. Yet today S. 47 has removed the very provision which raised the blue-slip problem with the House of Representatives because, as we all know, under the Constitution all bills raising revenue must start in the House of Representatives. The majority did this only a few months after the majority refused to drop that very same provision and proceed to conference. So this bill could have been to the President last year. The willingness of the majority today to eliminate that very unconstitutional provision demonstrates that we could have had a bill to the President last year. That ought to be a terrible disappointment not only to this Senator but to all the people in the Senate.
It is not true that unless S. 47 is passed exactly as is various groups will be excluded from protections under the law. Would anyone care to know why? Because the current law protects all victims.
Vice President Biden wrote the current law. Every Member of the Senate who was a Member of this body when the Violence Against Women Act was last reauthorized voted for that bill. Neither Vice President Biden nor any other Senator passed a discriminatory bill then. It is not the case that unless the controversial provisions are accepted exactly as the majority insists without any compromise whatsoever that any groups will be excluded.
The key stumbling block to enacting a bill at this time is the provision concerning Indian tribal courts. That provision raises serious constitutional questions concerning both the sovereignty of tribal courts and the constitutional rights of defendants who would be tried in those courts. We should focus on providing needed services to Native American women. S. 47 makes political statements and expounds on Native American sovereignty. It raises such significant constitutional problems that its passage might actually not accomplish anything at all for Native American women while failing to protect the constitutional rights of other American citizens.
Even the Congressional Research Service has raised constitutional questions with the tribal provisions in this very bill. Negotiations are continuing, and I am quite confident that if we can reach an agreement on these questions, compromises on the other few remaining issues can also be secured and would allow the bill to pass with overwhelming bipartisan support. If we are unable to reach agreement in the next couple of days, then I intend to offer a substitute that is much more likely to be accepted by the House and become law.
In the meantime, for this very day, all we are talking about is getting to this bill so we can discuss these issues. I will vote for the motion to proceed, and I ask my colleagues to do so as well.
I yield the floor, and suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
[[Page S463]] The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.