Amy in the News
Klobuchar Calls on House to Pass Bipartisan Violence Against Women Act
July 26, 2012
Madam President, there's a second bill that's also been hung up, a bipartisan bill that received significant support in the United States Senate. In fact got the support of every single woman senator in this body, Democrat and Republican. And that is the Violence Against Women Act.
Here in the Senate we passed that reauthorization bill in April on a bipartisan 68-31 vote. It was always clear that we were going to pass the bill. Just like the two reauthorizations from the year 2000 and 2006, our bill strengthens current law and provides solutions to problems that we have learned more about since the Violence Against Women Act was first passed in 1994. And ever since then, the bill has been able to get through both houses on a bipartisan basis without significant controversy.
We do not want to be going back in time. We do not want to be going back to a time when we treated women who were victims of domestic violence like they weren't really victims, like it was something that they should just expect to happen. We don't want to turn back on the great strides that we've made.
One of the improvement improvements that's in this current bill focuses on a particularly underserved communities, women living in tribal areas. We have a number of reservations in Minnesota and it's a heartbreaking reality that they experience sexual assaults that are much higher than the national average. The judiciary committee on which I serve worked closely with the Indian Affairs Committee to come up with some commonsense solutions to the horrific levels of domestic violence and assault in tribal areas.
One of the problems on tribal lands is that currently tribal courts do not have jurisdiction over non-Indian defendants who abuse their Indian spouses on Indian lands even though more than 50% of native women are married to non-Indians. The bipartisan Senate bill addresses this problem by allowing tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians in a narrow set of cases that meets three specific criteria. The crime must have occurred in Indian country. The crime must be a domestic violence offense. And the non-Indian defendant must live or work in Indian country. That is the way we get these cases prosecuted. I don't think we really believe the federal courts are going to come in and handle all these domestic violence cases. This is the pragmatic solution that protects these Native American women.
As we were considering the Violence Against Women Act on the floor, many of us had to work very hard to get the message out there that VAWA was and always has been a bipartisan bill, one that law enforcement and state and local governments strongly support. Throughout this entire process, under the leadership of Senator Leahy and Republican Senator Crapo, who did this bill together from the beginning, I found it very helpful that whenever I needed to tell people why we needed to pass a reauthorization bill, I could point to the great work that my state is doing to combat domestic violence.
There's the legacy of Paul and Sheila Wellstone, who were they at the beginning ushering this bill through in 1994. Minnesota is the home to many nationally recognized programs, Hennepin county domestic violence service center that I was honored to be in charge of during my eight years as Country Attorney in Hennepin county, a nationally recognized center.
We opened one of the first shelters in the country in 1974 and the City of Duluth was the first is he to require its police officers to make arrests in domestic violence cases. I've learned about a unique domestic violence court that sterns county -- that's the area around Saint Cloud -- has implementing from VAWA grants. The partnership, which involves trained people from all levels of the criminal justice system, has allowed 58% of the victim participants to separate from their abusers. Washington County relies on cutting-edge research to provide direction for officers to take appropriate action when responding to domestic violence calls. It's the only program of its kind in the entire country.
These are the kind of innovative initiatives from law enforcement that's especially critical to combating violence and are directly a result of the Violence Against Women Act that we have worked so hard to pass in past years in this Congress.
I want to stress just how crucial it is that we get this bill signed into law. We've made a lot of progress over the years and we've been able to work together across the aisle to build on VAWA's successes. But we shouldn't just send any bill to the president. As you know, the House has passed its own reauthorization of VAWA which unfortunately does not include many of the improvements that the Senate bill includes, including the one i mentioned on tribal courts. It also rolls back some of the important improvements that have been made to VAWA in the past.
I'm hopeful that we will be able to iron out these differences as we move forward but I strongly believe that the improvements that were included in the Senate bill should remain a part of the bill that gets sent to the president. I hope that our colleagues in the House will follow the suit of the Senate with this domestic violence bill, pass a bipartisan bill, get this done and get it done soon. It simply isn't that hard. You just look into the eyes of a domestic violence victim, you look into the eyes of the children and you know it isn't that hard. Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.
Senator Klobuchar’s Offices
302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main Line: 202-224-3244
Main Fax: 202-228-2186
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1200 Washington Avenue South, Room 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main Line: 612-727-5220
Main Fax: 612-727-5223
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1130 1/2 7th Street NW, Room 208
Rochester, MN 55901
Main Line: 507-288-5321
121 4th Street South
Moorhead, MN 56560
Main Line: 218-287-2219
Olcott Plaza, Room 105
820 9th Street North
Virginia, MN 55792
Main Line: 218-741-9690