By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) passed the Senate on Tuesday, Feb. 12 by an overwhelming 78-22 vote. Many tribal leaders are happy with the Senate bill’s passage.
“We are very excited to have this positive outcome in the Senate,” said Painttown Rep. Terri Henry who also serves as co-chair of the National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) Task Force on Violence Against Native Women. “This is the work of many people from across the country, and we are grateful to them for their commitment and support. I am proud of Indian Country for keeping strong and holding together. We feel that we are in a position of strength as we move into the House. Even with the success in the Senate, we will have our work cut out for us in the House.”
This legislation was passed by the Senate in the 112th Congress, but the House passed a very different version and a compromise was never met.
Wolftown Rep. Mike Parker related, “It has only passed the Senate. Now the hard part begins: getting it to pass the House. This is truly landmark legislation.”
NCAI president Jefferson Keel said in a statement, “Today’s passage of the Violence Against Women Act in the Senate, and previous votes to defeat harmful amendments to the bill, sends a clear message to the House that a strong VAWA bill with the tribal provisions must be passed immediately. There is no reason for further delay.”
Keel continued, “This is violence that cuts deep into the hearts of our community. Addressing violence against any women, including Native women, is a priority of all Americans, and the safety of both Native and non-Native communities should not be marginalized.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, released a statement following passage, “Today, the Senate took a major step forward to protect all victims of domestic violence across America. And, because of the Senate bill, nearly 500,000 women in Indian Country will receive better protection if we can get this onto the President’s desk and signed.”
The legislation was introduced into the 113th Congress on Jan. 22 by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID).
In a statement following its passage, Sen. Leahy said, “There is strong, bipartisan support for VAWA reauthorization, and together we can finally finish what we started last year. We are deeply indebted to the women and men around the country who have been working with us and have been steadfast in their commitment to the victims and to our efforts to combat domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault.”
Attorney General Eric Holder was also happy at the Senate’s passage of the legislation. In a statement, he commented, “The tribal provisions included in the VAWA reauthorization and originally proposed by the Department of Justice, will close a significant jurisdictional gap that has left too many Native American women, precisely because they are Native American, exposed to violence for far too long. The status quo is simply unacceptable, and the Senate has today acted courageously on behalf of our society’s most vulnerable, who deserve not only equal justice, but also our unquestionable resolve to protect them.”