WASHINGTON – While on the Senate floor on Friday, Feb. 8, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, urged swift passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S.47) with strong Tribal provisions.
Sen. Cantwell also called for the rejection of an amendment that would remove Tribal provisions from the bill. The amendment, which is scheduled for a vote on Monday, would overturn Tribal jurisdiction and limit the ability of Tribal courts to punish non-Indian domestic violence offenders who assault Indian women. The amendment would lower the crime of domestic violence by Non-Indians against Indian women from a felony to a misdemeanor level punishment, regardless of the circumstances or severity of the crime.
“I would say to my colleagues it’s time to pass this legislation, and to protect these rights for all individuals,” Sen. Cantwell said “We cannot vote for an amendment on the other side of the aisle that basically strips the rights of Native American women and treats them like second-class citizens. Nor can we just go silent on what is an epidemic problem in our country.”
Sen. Cantwell is an original co-sponsor of the bill introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on Jan. 22. The reauthorization bill includes critical improvements to extend domestic violence protections to individuals, including women in Tribal communities, who are currently not protected.
Last Congress, a similar Senate version of the VAWA reauthorization bill passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 68-31, but ultimately stalled in the House. S. 47 has 60 co-sponsors and is expected to head to the Senate floor for final passage next week.
– Senate Committee of Indian Affairs