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Violence Against Women Act Stalled by Deadlock Congress

- Common Dreams staff

The Violence Against Women Act has now stalled in Congress as the House and Senate stand in 'gridlock' with opposing versions of the bill, neither one likely to be passed by the other anytime soon.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) The 18-year-old law has historically helped victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, supplying them with many essential social services including short-term housing.

The Senate version of this year's re-authorization of the bill extends the protections to gays, lesbians and transgender people, native Americans, and illegal immigrants, to varying degrees.

The GOP-controlled House rejected the Senate version of the bill in opposition to the extensions. Instead, the House passed its own version of the bill leaving out the extended provisions. According to the National Organization for Women the House version "not only strips important provisions that were passed by a bipartisan Senate vote of 68-31, but also changes and weakens many initiatives and preventive provisions that have been included in VAWA by both Republicans and Democrats over the past 18 years."

Congress now remains in a deadlock; however, the Act already expired in September and its programs are soon to run out of funding.

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National Organization for Women: NOW Condemns House for Passage of H.R. 4970
Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill

Extremists in the House may resent being called out for their War on Women, but their atrocious bill is part and parcel of it -- and women are not fooled by the attempts of H.R. 4970's supporters to characterize serious policy differences as mere election year politicking. Proponents of the Adams bill seemed more interested in railing against Washington bureaucrats and claiming (without evidence) rampant fraud by immigrant women who have been battered and raped, than they were about the plight of victims in desperate need of services and legal protections.

Their bill most assuredly is not about victims. The bill fundamentally undermines VAWA's 18-year history of victim-centered legislation by shielding perpetrators from accountability for their violent crimes, raising new hurdles to women escaping violent relationships, removing important college campus and housing improvements, rolling back provisions for culturally specific services currently in VAWA and turning its back on immigrant women and Native American and LGBT communities. Small wonder its proponents were not able to produce experts or professionals who support this bad bill.

Because the Adams bill undercuts previous VAWA provisions and stays silent on serving underserved communities, survivors and advocates understandably sense that House extremists are intent on abandoning victims because of their racial and legal status. And we are not afraid to state that this second-class treatment of victims of color smacks of willful ignorance of the problem and hostility toward the victims. Constituents no doubt will be reluctant to vote for representatives who claimed to support ending violence against women while voting for an exclusionary bill that ignores the biases and disrespect that certain victims face when seeking help from the criminal justice system and access to lifesaving services.

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McClatchy: Violence Against Women Act stalled as Congress bickers

The gridlock is another sign of Congress’ inability to do much of anything but bicker this year. This is the third time the Violence Against Women Act has been up for reauthorization since 2000 and it’s never been controversial before. The landmark 18-year-old law includes measures to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence; among other things it provides short-term housing for abused women and grants for law enforcement staffing and training.

Crapo sponsored this year’s reauthorization bill along with Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who put in new provisions that are at the heart of the fight. Those include: an expansion of the law to assure protections for gays, lesbians and transgender people; authority for tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence on reservations; and an increase in the number of visas allowed for illegal immigrants who are victims of abuse and help police prosecute the offenders. [...]

The House passed its own version last week stripping out the new provisions, drawing a veto threat from President Barack Obama, who said it didn’t do enough to protect battered immigrants, Native Americans or gays. The White House said in a statement that the House version took "direct aim at immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault" and jeopardized victims by placing them "directly in harm’s way.”

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