By Monica Brown, Tulalip News Writer, February 12, 2013
The VAWA bill has passed 78 to 22 today. It already had 62 co-sponsors which helped ensure its passage, but it picked up additional support from a handful of Republicans who weren’t already sponsoring it.
“Today the Senate took a major step forward to protect all victims of domestic violence across America,” Sen. Maria Cantwell said. “And because of the Senate bill, nearly 500,000 women in Indian Country will receive better protection if we can get this onto the President’s desk and signed.”
The reauthorization bill includes improvements to extend domestic violence protections to individuals, including women in Tribal communities, who suffer disproportionately from domestic violence due to complex jurisdictional loopholes.
The Senate’s reauthorization bill increases protection for 30 million women regardless of sexual orientation, immigration status, or residency on Tribal land. The bill authorizes $659 million over five years for VAWA programs and expands VAWA to include new protections for LGBT and Native American victims of domestic violence, to give more attention to sexual assault prevention and to help reduce a backlog in processing rape kits.
Senators voted on a few amendments to the bill. They voted 93 to 5 to include a provision that targets human trafficking, and 100 to 0 on a provision that ensures child victims of sex trafficking are eligible for grant assistance. They rejected the amendments by Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) to consolidate certain Department of Justice programs and to allow grants for sexually transmitted disease tests on sexual assault perpetrators.
“The Senate sent a very clear message that no matter where you live, you deserve to be protected,” Sen. Cantwell said at today’s press conference. “And the message was equally clear that you cannot escape accountability for committing crimes against women. So this final bill that we now move to the House of Representatives will help us close the gap in the legal system for prosecuting domestic violence on Indian reservations.”
“The clock is still ticking and over 160 million women across the country are watching and waiting to see if the House will act on this bill and finally provide them the protections from violence they deserve. And just like last Congress, we all know it will take leadership from Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor to move this bill forward. The fate of VAWA still lies squarely on their shoulders and too many women have been left vulnerable while they have played politics,” Sen. Patty Murray
The issue of tribal court is expected to be a hurdle as lawmakers try to reconcile the Senate bill with the eventual House bill. Two House Republicans, Tom Cole (Okla.), who is of Native American heritage, and Darrell Issa (Ca.) — have been pushing a compromise that would give defendants the right to request that their trial be moved to a federal court if they felt they were not getting a fair trial. Others have argued that those tried in Indian courts should have better defined rights to appeal to federal courts.