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We Should Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act

Apr 26, 2012 | Blog

Earlier today, I cast several votes regarding the Violence Against Women Act.

On the Klobuchar amendment, I voted no because I believe the Cornyn amendment, which I voted for, is better policy.  I supported the Cornyn amendment because it addresses rape kit backlogs, tightens mandatory federal sentences for crimes against women and children, imposes a 15-year minimum sentence in crimes where domestic violence leads to death and imposes a 10-year minimum sentence in rape convictions.  In addition, it creates a database for investigating sex offenders, including DNA databases to assist law enforcement.  And finally, it contains a Sense of Congress provision calling on to take down its adult services section, which has become a facilitator for sex trafficking.  On the other hand, the Klobuchar amendment does not contain the sentencing provisions or the subpoena authorities found in the Cornyn Amendment, nor does it have the component.

On the Hutchison amendment, I voted no because of strong concerns, particularly by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about the new requirement that 30 percent of STOP grant funding be targeted to sexual assault would divert funding away from current domestic violence programs without evidence that the increased funding will result in enhanced prosecutions or additional cases reported.

Finally, on the Leahy Substitute, I voted no because it would also divert funding away from domestic violence programs to sexual assault cases, without any evidence that the increased funding will result in enhanced prosecutions or additional cases reported.  Furthermore, it would give the Justice Department greater power in determining how funds are used at the state level, taking decision-making out of the hands of the state-based coalitions on the ground who know best about how to serve their communities.  Lastly, this legislation fails to address the duplication and overlap within VAWA programs and with non-VAWA programs operated by both the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services.

I support reauthorizing the current Violence Against Women Act as written and hope we can vote for it once it comes out of the House-Senate conference committee.