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House Republicans Cross Aisle To Back Comprehensive Violence Against Women Act

House Republicans Cross Aisle To Back Comprehensive Violence Against Women Act

December 13, 2012 — House Republican leaders are facing pressure from members of their own party to approve an expanded version of the Violence Against Women Act, the Huffington Post reports (Bendery, Huffington Post, 12/12).

The House and Senate have been at an impasse over reauthorizing the law since they each approved different versions earlier this year. Vice President Biden and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) recently began negotiations in an attempt to overcome the stalemate.

The Senate passed a bipartisan bill (S 1925) in April with specific protections for undocumented immigrants; members of the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community; and Native Americans. The version (HR 4970) the House passed in May omitted such protections (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/7).

Letter to Boehner

On Tuesday, 120 House lawmakers -- including 10 Republicans -- sent a letter urging House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) "to move quickly on the reauthorization of [VAWA] by bringing a bill inclusive of protections for all victims of domestic violence, similar to that which has already passed in the Senate, to the House floor for a vote" (Rayfield, Salon, 12/12).

The public call from some conservatives for a more inclusive bill is "notable," given their relative silence on the issue in recent months, according to the Huffington Post.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), who authored the letter, said there are other House Republicans who did not sign the letter but support a bill that includes protections for Native American women (Huffington Post, 12/12).

Opinion Pieces Comment on VAWA Negotiations

Recent opinion pieces advocated for a VAWA bill that extends protections for Native American survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Summaries appear below.

~ Greg Kaufmann, The Nation: On reservations across the country, "non-Indians are permitted to commit violence against Native women with impunity," Kaufmann writes, adding that "one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetimes; two in five are victims of domestic violence; three out of five will be physically assaulted." Kaufmann highlights the work of Deborah Parker, vice chair of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington state, who has advocated for a final VAWA bill that would grant jurisdiction to tribal authorities to prosecute certain non-Native American perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence. He quotes Parker, who said, "If this [bill] doesn't pass ... [i]t would be devastating to communities all over Indian country, and ... would leave reservations wide open for continued abuse" (Kaufmann, The Nation, 12/12).

~ Laurel Bellows, Roll Call: "U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute half of violent crimes on reservations between 2005 and 2009," Bellows -- president of the American Bar Association -- writes, adding that 67% of these cases were related to sexual abuse. She writes that the House version of VAWA "is not only weaker than the Senate bill, but it also silences entire categories of victims." She adds, "The House bill essentially provides a two-tier system of justice; one level for most victims and another level that excludes from justice victims who are among the most vulnerable" (Bellows, Roll Call, 12/13).