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Statement on my Vote Against the Violence Against Women Act

Feb 12, 2013 | Blog

I believe we should have re-authorized the existing Violence Against Women Act that has helped reduce the annual incidence of domestic violence by more than 50 percent, among other successes.  I also continue supporting the work being done at the federal, state and local levels to combat domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. I specifically support such ideas as:

  • Authorizing programs in the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services to help prevent and reduce violence against women. The annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped more than 50 percent since VAWA became law. 
  • Renewing previously successful programs that have helped law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim service providers keep victims safe and hold criminals accountable.
  • Consolidating 13 existing overlapping programs into 4 to reduce administrative costs and avoid duplication.
  • Including provisions that address the problem of untested sexual assault evidence that could be used to prosecute offenders and solve cold cases.

I was also proud to have cosponsored and voted for the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which was presented by Senator Patrick Leahy as an amendment today. This amendment is almost identical to the 2011 legislation of the same name which I also co-sponsored. I fully support this re-authorization of programs to combat modern day slavery both in the United States and abroad. This amendment promotes increased cooperation among federal agencies, supports the victim-centered approach to trafficking and promotes accountability by ensuring federal funds are used for their intended purposes.  I wish we could have had a full debate on this bill separately and the issue of human trafficking, so that more attention could be focused on the problem of modern day slavery.  But I was nonetheless proud to support this measure and hope it eventually becomes law.

Unfortunately, I could not support the final, entire legislation that contains new provisions that could have potentially adverse consequences.  Specifically, this bill would mandate the diversion of a portion of funding from domestic violence programs to sexual assault programs, although there’s no evidence to suggest this shift will result in a greater number of convictions. These funding decisions should be left up to the state-based coalitions that understand local needs best, but instead this new legislation would put those decisions into the hands of distant Washington bureaucrats in the Department of Justice. Additionally, I have concerns regarding the conferring of criminal jurisdiction to some Indian tribal governments over all persons in Indian country, including non-Indians.