04.16.12

Leahy: Senate Should Consider VAWA Reauthorization Without Delay

WASHINGTON (Monday, April 16, 2012) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Monday again urged the Senate to consider legislation to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Leahy is the lead author of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, bipartisan legislation to strengthen and improve the 1994 law which has become the bedrock of the nation’s response to domestic and sexual violence.  Leahy introduced the legislation in November with Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).  The bill is cosponsored by another 59 Senators, both Democrats and Republicans. 

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act would further strengthen and improve programs authorized under the landmark law to assist victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  The reauthorization bill includes an increased focus on sexual assault, including the addition of new purpose areas to support the efforts of sexual assault coalitions working in the states and provisions to help reduce rape kit backlogs.

Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, Leahy urged Senate consideration of the bill, saying, “Support for the Violence Against Women Act has always been bipartisan, and I appreciate the bipartisan support that this reauthorization bill has already received.  Senator Crapo and I introduced the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in November.  With Senators Heller and Ayotte joining as cosponsors in March, we now have 61 cosponsors in the Senate from both sides of the aisle.  I hope that the Senate will take up and pass this bill soon.”

The Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, approved the legislation in February.  Leahy has filed a comprehensive Committee Report to accompany the legislation.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On The “Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act Of 2011”
April 16, 2012

As the Senate begins work again after the Easter recess, I want to thank all the Senators who have come to floor in recent weeks to express their bipartisan support for the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and to emphasize the urgent need for the Senate to take up and reauthorize this landmark legislation.

For almost 18 years, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been the centerpiece of the Federal Government’s commitment to combating domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The impact of this landmark law has been remarkable.  It has provided life saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children, and the annual incidence of domestic violence has fallen by more than 50 percent since the law was first passed. 

Support for the Violence Against Women Act has always been bipartisan, and I appreciate the bipartisan support that this reauthorization bill has already received.  Senator Crapo and I introduced the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in November.  With Senators Heller and Ayotte joining as cosponsors in March, we now have 61 cosponsors in the Senate from both sides of the aisle.  I hope that the Senate will take up and pass this bill soon.

The Violence Against Women Act is about responding to domestic and sexual violence. Its programs are vitally important. Our legislation is informed by the experiences and needs of survivors of domestic and sexual violence from all around the country, and by the recommendations of the tireless professionals who serve them every day.  It builds on the progress that has been made in reducing domestic and sexual violence and makes vital improvements to respond to unmet needs, as we have each time we have reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. 

The provisions that a minority on the Judiciary Committee labeled controversial are, in fact, modest changes to meet the genuine, unmet needs that service providers have told us they see every day as they work with victims all over the country.  As every prior VAWA reauthorization has done, this bill takes steps to recognize those victims whose needs are not being met and finds ways to help them.  This is not new or different.  It should not be a basis for partisan division or delay.   

The legislation also includes important changes to respond to current economic realities. We all know that while the economy is now improving, these remain difficult economic times and taxpayer money must be spent responsibly.   That is why in our bill, we consolidate 13 programs into four in an effort to reduce duplication and bureaucratic barriers.  The bill would cut the authorization level for VAWA by more than $135 million a year, a decrease of nearly 20 percent from the last reauthorization.  The legislation also includes significant accountability provisions, including audit requirements, enforcement mechanisms, and restrictions on grantees and costs.  

Our bipartisan bill is the product of careful consideration and has widespread support.  There is no reason why the Senate should not take up, debate and pass this legislation. The Judiciary Committee passed this bill after considering amendments, including a substitute offered by the minority.  I have reached out to Senator Grassley to ask about possible amendments and time agreements for consideration.  We should move forward and pass this important measure with strong bipartisan support.  These problems are too serious for us to delay.  We should reauthorize this law now.

This is crucial, common sense legislation that has been endorsed by more than 700 state and national organizations.  Numerous religious and faith-based organizations, as well as our law enforcement partners, have endorsed this VAWA reauthorization bill.  The last two times the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized, it was unanimously approved by the Senate.  Although it seems that partisan gridlock has too often become the default in the Senate in recent years, there is no good reason we should delay considering this bill that already has the support of 61 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.   

Domestic and sexual violence knows no political party.  Its victims are Republican and Democrat; rich and poor, young and old, male and female, straight and gay.  Let us work together and pass strong VAWA reauthorization legislation without delay.  It is a law that has saved countless lives, and it is an example of what we can accomplish when we work together. 

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