On the Eighteenth Anniversary of Landmark Law, Leahy Calls on Republicans to Uphold Bipartisan History and Pass the Violence Against Women Act

[WASHINGTON (Thursday, September 13, 2012) –Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), lead sponsor of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, spoke on the Senate floor today about the importance of renewing the program’s charter. While the legislation won strong bipartisan support in the Senate, House Republicans have failed to act on this consensus bill. Senator Leahy was joined by several Democratic Senators in calling for swift action to renew VAWA, which was enacted 18 years ago today.]  

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, Senate Committee On The Judiciary

On the Eighteenth Anniversary of Landmark Law,
Leahy Calls on Republicans to Uphold Bipartisan History and Pass the Violence Against Women Act

September 13, 2012

Two weeks ago in Tampa, Republican leaders from Congress and around the country sought to make clear their commitment to advancing causes important to women. I was pleased to see that commitment, and I hope they will now put those words into action and prove that their speeches were more than just campaign rhetoric.

One significant step Republicans could take would be to help us reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law eighteen years ago today. This landmark bill, which fundamentally changed the way our country responds to domestic and sexual violence, expired one year ago this month. There is no good reason that we can’t work together and see that this life-saving law is reauthorized immediately. Just yesterday, the Republican Attorney General from Utah and the Democratic Attorney General from Maryland called on Congress to pass the Senate bill, which covers all victims including immigrant women. In their guest column in Politico, the two noted that the bipartisan Senate bill would give “a significant boost for law enforcement and public safety,” while the politically charged House bill “seeks to turn a bipartisan concern for abuse survivors into a partisan wedge,” and “dramatically roll[s] back important protections for battered immigrant women and their children.”  I ask that the column be made part of the Congressional Record.

Despite these continued calls for action, and even though the reauthorization bill passed the Senate with a strong, bipartisan majority of 68 votes, Republican leaders in both the House and Senate have hidden behind a procedural technicality and refused to allow the House to vote on the Senate bill.  That obstruction must end. Too many lives are on the line to play these political games.  Here in the Senate, we have twice asked Republican leaders to agree to take up a House revenue bill, substitute the bipartisan Senate VAWA bill and send it to the House immediately to overcome the procedural concern. Each time, they have refused this commonsense resolution.  That contrasts with how we moved forward earlier this year using the same process to overcome similar technical hurdles with both the transportation bill and the FAA reauthorization legislation.  With just a little cooperation from Senate Republicans, we can move VAWA now.

Similarly, House Republicans continue to hide behind this excuse to avoid debating and voting on the bipartisan Senate bill.  The Speaker can waive the technicality and allow the House to vote on the Senate bill at any time.  House Republicans could have allowed a vote on the text of the Senate bill as a House amendment or House bill.  They are choosing to hold up VAWA reauthorization for all victims.  I urge them to reconsider and move forward with us to protect all victims of violence.  

Ours is a bill that was developed with the input of victims and the service providers who work with them day in and day out.  It helps women who are victims of terrible crimes – the very people that we should all want to support and protect.  It does so in important and responsible ways.

We have only a precious few days left in this Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.  If the Republican leadership wants to help end domestic and sexual violence, now is the time to act.  It is time to make good on our promise to the victims of these horrible crimes.  Helping them -- no matter who they are – must be our goal. Their lives depend on it, and they are waiting on us.

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