Posted by Laurie on May 19, 2013 in Criminal Law | 1 comment
Why the Violence Against Woman Act Died
Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has protected millions of women and families across the United States by providing law enforcement agencies with numerous resources to help counter spousal abuse. The bill was originally penned by then-Senator Joe Biden in 1992 with the sole intention of protecting women from violence. Along with funding prosecutions against sex offenders, the Violence Against Women Act also established tougher penalties for habitual sex offenders, training of law enforcement agents, a national hotline for victims, a federal rape shield law, and a number of other provisions to benefit victims of abuse.
The law has continually helped millions of women every year across the nation because Congress has continually reauthorized the bill for almost two decades. In fact, this continual reauthorization of the bill in both 2000 and 2005 has been an achievement for a Congress not typically known for its bipartisanship. Unfortunately, like many initiatives this past year, the 112th Congress could not reach an agreement in 2012, killing the bill for the first time ever.
One of the primary causes of Congress’ inability to reach a compromise was a strong resistance from House Republicans – due in large part to the bill’s new provisions to cover an additional 30 million women. Specifically, the bill extended protections to women on college campuses. This came into consideration after the murder of Yeardley Love in 2010 at the University of Virginia. The bill also provided new law enforcement measures to protect Native American women on tribal reservations, immigrant women – no matter their status – and also women in the LGBT community.
“It was an inexcusable failure by House Republican leaders and one that will have real-life implications for women who now find themselves with nowhere to turn for help,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), wrote in an article on CNN.com.
Before reaching the House, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization by a vote of 68 to 31 with the support of 15 Republicans.
“This seems to be how House Republican leadership operates,” Murray said. “No matter how broad the bipartisan support, no matter who gets hurt in the process, the politics of the right wing of their party always comes first.”
On the other hand, House Republicans blamed Democrats for not budging on many issues, especially the LGBT, undocumented immigrants, and tribal jurisdiction provisions.
This battle began in the Senate back in April when Democrats proposed the bill with the newly added provisions. Democrats drafted the re-authorization with input from anti-domestic violence advocates and law enforcement agents. Even with strong opposition from Republicans who wanted the provisions concerning LGBT women, Native Americans, and illegal immigrants removed, the re-authorization passed on to the House.
With no intention of supporting the act, House Republicans responded by presenting a scaled-back version of the bill that focused primarily on making it harder for illegal-immigrant victims to achieve citizenship under the U Visa. House GOP leaders eventually passed this version of the bill on a partisan vote even with President Barack Obama’s threat to veto the bill.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) urged the Senate to resolve the differences, arguing their version of the bill was unconstitutional. On the other hand, Democrats fought for the GOP to pass the Senate’s original version of the bill claiming it passed with strong bipartisan support and that President Obama had already threatened to veto the House’s version of the bill.
Democrats felt they had a chance in December when Vice President Biden met with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to see if they could negotiate and reach a compromise. Unfortunately, both sides refused to budge on major issues involving the LGBT, undocumented immigrants, and tribal jurisdiction women.
A GOP source told Talking Points Memo (TPM) that Biden showed “good faith,” but that the Senate Democrats threw up too many “roadblocks,” and presented a “my way or the highway,” attitude.
In the end, the bill failed to reach President Obama’s desk before the end of the year. The reauthorization of the bill is expected to be up for debate again in 2013.