Stop Blocking VAWA
August 9, 2012
By: Terry O'Neill, NOW President
House and Senate GOP leadership have made their position on VAWA strikingly clear: They remain determined to block this lifesaving legislation. It's not about procedural problems. It's not entirely about election year politics, either, though conservatives have demonstrated that they're willing to go to extremes to stop Democrats and especially President Obama from achieving legislative victories. No, what's going on with VAWA is far more sordid: The GOP leaders are determined to replace VAWA with a bill that excludes certain types of people.
The Violence Against Women Act has, since 1994, represented Congress' best effort to stem the tragedy of domestic violence. But after 18 years, victim advocates, police officers, courts and legal service providers tell us there's more that VAWA can do. Serious gaps in services have come to our attention through talking to more than 2,000 service providers, justice system personnel, and state and county executives. So when VAWA came up for reauthorization, participants across the field thought it was right to fill the gaps and provide services for those who have not had the same access to VAWA's protections over the past 18 years. We all thought it was right to commit to providing broader, more carefully targeted services to LGBT and immigrant victims, as well as victims of these violent crimes on tribal lands.
So that's what we asked Congress to do. Serve the most vulnerable populations. Don't say that one victim is more deserving than another. Let's make sure VAWA serves them all.
Two years ago, representatives from the field went to all members of Congress to make the case for a more inclusive VAWA. We went to both Democratic and Republican offices. We went to the leadership of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, showed them the results of our surveys, and asked them to honor the evidence-based request from the field to ensure that VAWA serves all victims.
One of the offices we went to first was Senator Grassley's office, as he is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. We showed our data to his staff; some of us even met with the senator in person. We told Grassley and his staff two years ago that three serious gaps exist: a dearth of services for LGBT, immigrant and tribal victims.
So imagine my surprise last week, when I heard Sen. Grassley, on behalf of Senate Republican leadership, complain on the floor that the addition of protections for these three populations was the result of Democrats' "election year politics." You read that right. Charles Grassley whined that these provisions were included in S. 1925 to make Republicans look bad in an election year.
Wow. Did Grassley forget that he and his staff spoke with dozens of national organizations about these needs two years ago? Did he completely block out the fact that these populations were included in S. 1925 because the experts in the field made the case for such protections two years ago? Is that why he stood on the floor of the Senate, huffing and puffing that he doesn't want to look bad while throwing up a bogus procedural hurdle to stop the Senate-passed bipartisan, inclusive VAWA in its tracks?
Grassley's obstructionism is calculated to achieve passage of a truly dreadful version of VAWA, which passed in the House on a party-line vote, 222-205, with 23 Republicans voting against it. That bill has rightly been called racist, exclusionary and homophobic because it turns its back on the underserved populations addressed in the Senate bill. It also undermines VAWA's essential purpose and is so bad for women that President Obama has already promised to veto it should it reach his desk.
It's not the Democrats who are making Republican leaders look bad. Senators Grassley, McConnell and some other Republican leaders are doing that all by themselves.
The reality is that 68 senators, including 15 Republicans, decided a victim is a victim, and all victims should be served, when they voted for the inclusive version of VAWA. It is past time for Senators Grassley and McConnell to stop playing fast and loose with the facts and cease playing politics with women's lives.
Stop blocking VAWA now.
Take Action: If you care about protecting all women from violence, call your Congress member during the August recess, and urge them to support the Senate's bipartisan, inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act. Look up your representative's contact information »
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