THE U.S. Senate is expected to vote this week on the Violence Against Women Act.
A bipartisan effort to renew the measure passed the upper chamber last year but was stalled in the House.
On Jan. 22, Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, resurrected the bill. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., fast-tracked it to the floor, where it will likely pass.
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House Republican leaders refused to bring the original Senate bill forward for a vote. They must not squander a second chance to save lives.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been in place since 1994 and reauthorized twice without controversy.
The latest version of the bill is similar to last year’s in that it expands protections for Native Americans and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender victims. The only difference is Leahy removed a provision that would have increased visa allotments for illegal-immigrant women who have reported abuse. He plans to deal with that issue as comprehensive immigration reforms come to the fore.
Some members of Congress balk at the prospect of allowing tribal courts to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit domestic and sexual violence on reservations.
The problem is Native American women are more likely to be raped and abused compared with other groups. Those who live on Washington’s 29 reservations have also been victimized.
Because most perpetrators are not tribal members, advocates say they commit their vile acts with impunity. By doing nothing, society allows criminals to continue their rampage.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is reportedly taking the lead on VAWA for Republicans. She must respond to the needs of her own constituents here in Washington.
The state receives $9.3 million annually in VAWA funding. The money is used to help victims through 20 different organizations associated with tribes, YWCA chapters and government-assistance programs.
Grants run through September 2013, but advocates need to be able to plan for the long term.
Here’s a suggestion for Congress: It’s still early. Greenlight this latest bill before lawmakers become consumed by fierce debates over budget cuts, debt ceiling limits and immigration.
Pass the Violence Against Women Act now.
The abused and battered have no time for political games.