Last Week's Vote on the Violence Against Women Act
Multiple people have been asking about last week’s vote on the Violence Against Women Act.
The Senate passed S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) on February 12, 2013. This bill came to the House for a vote last Thursday, Feb. 28. It would both reauthorize VAWA grant programs through 2018 while also expanding some of its current provisions and definitions.
Concerns were raised, however, about a number of provisions in S. 47, including a section that deals with jurisdictional issues when violence involves a non-Native American perpetrator and a Native American victim. Under the Senate bill, Congress would recognize the Native American tribes' inherent sovereignty to prosecute - meaning criminal defendants would have to rely on protections under the Indian Civil Rights Act or tribal law. According to the non-partisan Congressional Resource Service (CRS), “…defendants (1) may be subjected to double jeopardy for the same act; (2) may not be able to exercise fully their right to counsel; (3) may have no right to prosecution by a grand jury indictment; (4) may not have access to a representative jury of their peers; and (5) may have limited federal appellate review of their cases.”
Everyone can agree that women have a right to be free of abuse, and criminals and abusers must be prosecuted. That is why rather than support S. 47, I was proud to support the bi-partisan House Substitute Amendment to the Senate VAWA Reauthorization, which would increase the emphasis on the investigation, prosecution, and services for victims of sexual assault. Additionally, the House Substitute Amendment consolidated 17 VAWA programs into four – reducing administrative costs in order to ensure the maximum funding is available to victims in need. Finally, the House Substitute Amendment provided constitutional safeguards to ensure justice for Native American women in tribal jurisdictions.
Ultimately, the House Substitute Amendment I supported was voted down on the House floor, and the Senate VAWA Reauthorization passed on a final vote.