The Leahy Letter -- May 7, 2012

Senate Passes  Bipartisan Leahy Bill To Renew And Strengthen
The Violence Against Women Act

The Senate on April 26 passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), a major step forward in the continued fight against domestic and sexual abuse.  Senator Leahy, joined by Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, introduced the bill last November.  The Leahy-Crapo bill garnered a solid bipartisan vote of 68 to 31. 

A former prosecutor in Vermont and longtime champion of crime victims, Senator Leahy collected feedback in Vermont and across the country from law enforcement agencies, organizations active in domestic violence prevention and remediation, and many others in identifying what has worked well in the past, what needs to be done to strengthen the programs authorized by VAWA, and where streamlining and consolidation in programs and services make sense going forward.

VAWA is a lifesaving law, authorizing grants to a wide variety of focused programs to serve and support victims of both domestic and sexual violence.  The bill also supports the work of state and local law enforcement officials and has been a mainstay of the nation’s response to various forms of domestic violence since its first enactment in 1994.

The Leahy-Crapo VAWA bill will expand the reach and scope of the services available to victims in several ways, including by establishing a non-discrimination provision to ensure that no victim is denied help based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, national origin, sex or disability.

To learn more about the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, please click here.

Senate Agriculture Committee Advances The 2012 Farm Bill

Senator Leahy prepares to markup the 2012 Farm Bill at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on April 26.

With the current multi-year Farm Bill set to expire this fall, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry has crafted the next Farm Bill --the Farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 – approving it on April 26 and sending the bill to the Senate Floor for debate and further refinement.

As with past Farm Bills, Vermont has a key seat at the table as the new one is being written.  Senator Leahy is the most senior member of the Agriculture Committee and continues to champion Vermont’s vital issues and interests, including dairy policy, nutrition programs, organic agriculture, and conservation and environmental efforts.  He has had listening sessions with Vermont farmers and ongoing discussions with Vermonters about all aspects of the wide-ranging bill. 

The bill would provide support to farmers, small business owners and rural communities; create jobs and boost local economies; streamline certain agricultural programs to improve efficiency and save taxpayer dollars; and provide crucial support to anti-hunger, conservation and environmental programs nationwide.

The Senate Farm Bill includes a major breakthrough in dairy policy, with two key parts.  First, it gives dairy farmers the new opportunity to buy margin insurance that would provide a minimum between their cost of producing milk -- based on feed prices -- and what they are paid for their milk.  If either the price drops or their costs rise significantly, the insurance program would kick in to offer them the difference between their costs and their income. 

Farmers could choose the margin that they want to insure – with some federal support -- but they would pay a premium for the margin level they choose to insure.  This insurance program gives farmers more choices, while providing a safety net that is stronger than the current MILC program, and at less cost to the federal government. 

Second, farmers who choose to participate in the insurance would also participate in a program aimed at stabilizing the volatile price of milk nationally, helping to end this rollercoaster that has long punished dairy farmers.  A board of dairy producers and USDA would track milk supply closely, and they would send price signals to farmers if overproduction becomes a problem, to slow up growth in supply until demand can catch up.  This stabilization program is designed to trigger in quickly, and trigger out quickly, and it is growth-oriented.

The market stabilization piece of this program is entirely new, and is crucial for dairy producers.  It would provide superior protection for Vermont’s dairy farmers, and at less cost to the federal government.  Even with the MILC safety net, the price rollercoaster for milk is devastating for Vermont farmers, making it impossible to effectively plan their businesses.  The wild price swings has also hurt consumers and processors.

To learn more about the Farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, please click here.

Secretary Napolitano Responds To The Judiciary Committee’s Concerns
About The Secret Service Scandal

In the wake of the recent scandal involving the conduct of several Secret Service agents advancing President Obama’s trip to Cartagena, Colombia, Senator Leahy chaired a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on April 25. The witness was DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, and the hearing covered a wide range of topics handled by the department.

Senator Leahy expressed his concerns that the allegations of improper behavior be addressed in a timely and serious fashion.

He said, “I have spoken privately with Secret Service Director Sullivan since the incident…I know that he shares my view that the alleged conduct was unacceptable.  I have no doubt you are treating this situation with equal seriousness.  No one wants to see the President’s security compromised or America embarrassed.”

To watch excerpts from the hearing, please click here.

To read Senator Leahy’s full opening statement, please click here.

Bringing To Justice War Criminals Like Joseph Kony And Charles Taylor

As an answer from the U.S. Senate to the groundswell of support for a movement dubbed Kony 2012 by its worldwide following, Senator Leahy joined several other senators who have long worked on finding Joseph Kony and helping his victims in producing a short web video about the need to address ongoing violence in Central Africa and to support the victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The video, which can be viewed here, is called “Pursuing Joseph Kony: A Message From the United States Senate,” and has been viewed so far more than 25,000 times. 

Meanwhile, a landmark conviction in a UN-backed tribunal on April 26 showed that the world can hunt down war criminals and bring them to justice.  The tribunal convicted former Liberian president Charles Taylor of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity – the first time a head of state has been convicted by an international court since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg.  Senator Leahy worked closely with successive prosecutors at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in making the breakthrough possible.  As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations, he wrote U.S. laws to withhold aid to any government that harbored Taylor, to increase the reward for Taylor’s capture, and to provide crucial funding for the court, even when it was not requested by an earlier administration.

Senator Leahy said, "The conviction of Charles Taylor sends a clear message that when crimes against humanity occur, there is no immunity from justice at the top. With this verdict the Special Court, which the Congress consistently supported on a bipartisan basis, has significantly advanced the cause of justice to solidify gains toward lasting peace in West Africa.  This is a lesson that we can and should apply going forward, from bringing Joseph Kony to justice, and beyond.  War crimes must not be tolerated.”

David Taylor, a former prosecutor with the special tribunal, said, "Senator Leahy was one of the leaders in the Senate who brought justice to the people of West Africa.  The clear clarion bell of justice rings out around the world putting tyrants on notice that they cannot kill their own citizens or others.  Senator Leahy's clear vision and leadership allowed us to bring that justice."

A Vermont Environmental Advocacy Program With Far-Reaching Impact

The Vermont Law School (VLS) in South Royalton is home to the U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law, a program which provides training to Chinese lawyers, citizen activists, and educators, giving them the skills needed to challenge mounting environmental pollution and to advocate for safer working conditions through the rule of law.  Senator Leahy announced on April 27 that he was able to obtain the release of $3.9 million to support the work of VLS and the Vermont-based Institute for Sustainable Communities, which also participates in the program.

For several years Senator Leahy has championed a modestly funded but groundbreaking competitive grant program for rule-of-law training in China, where the judiciary is often manipulated by corrupt officials and rapid economic growth has led to unprecedented environmental and public health problems. The partnership at VLS is among the programs supported by this initiative and was on track to receive funding for another year’s work when the appropriation ran into a hitch in the U.S. House of Representatives’ clearance process.  Senator Leahy untied the funding knot, and the Vermont-based program will continue.

Senator Leahy said, “This Vermont-based program is an impetus for reform and action. These funds will support the ongoing programs of two highly respected and innovative Vermont institutions. This program is an example of how a well-designed effort can be a catalyst for better laws and practices, even in an authoritarian country.”

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693