Mr. President, we are going to be joined here shortly by the Senator from New Hampshire, Mrs. Shaheen, but I do want to mention one other aspect.
Many of my colleagues have mentioned the incredibly important role that then-Senator Biden, now-Vice President Biden played in drafting this first bill in 1994. Well, there was another Senator who played an important role, and he is someone from Minnesota; that is, the late Senator Paul Wellstone, always with his wife Sheila with him at his side working on this important issue. When we lost Paul and Sheila in 2002, Minnesotans lost a tireless champion in Congress; Americans lost what was always called--Paul was called ``the conscience of the Senate''; and women everywhere lost two powerful voices on domestic violence issues.
I went back through the transcripts and looked at some of the speeches Senator Wellstone gave, before his tragic plane crash, about domestic violence and some of the things he said. Here are some. Of course, I would never do justice to him as he stood on the floor, but he said things like this. He said:
We can no longer stand by and say that it is someone else's problem. What are we waiting for? Too many have spoken with their voices and with their lives, and this violence must end.
He also said this:
Once upon a time we used to say it is nobody's business. We do not believe that any longer.
Paul and Sheila passionately believed that domestic violence was not just a law enforcement issue, it was an issue about civil rights, justice, and human dignity. Paul often talked about his brother Stephen, who struggled with mental illness his entire life, and he took up that cause because he knew no one was there for Stephen, no one else would speak for him. And he felt the same way about domestic violence.
We honor their memory--Paul and Sheila--by carrying on their work today.
I wish to highlight some of the more remarkable efforts to bring this issue out of the shadows which the Wellstones made.
Senator Wellstone began work on issues of domestic violence when he was elected to the Senate in 1990. As one can tell from the whole course of his political career, violence against women was always an issue close to his heart. In fact, Senator Wellstone dedicated his own salary increases each year to battered women's shelters in Minnesota and introduced a number of bills strengthening protections for women.
To Senator Wellstone, family violence could no longer be dismissed as a “family issue.” That is why he made a commitment to read into the Congressional Record the names and stories of all Minnesota women and children killed at the hands of spouses, boyfriends, and fathers. In one 1995 floor speech, he had six stories to tell, some so horrifying that he refused to share the full details in the Chamber.
In 1993 Paul and Sheila found an especially impactful way to bring their message to Washington. In collaboration with the Silent Witness Initiative, Paul and Sheila brought 27 life-size silhouettes to the rotunda of the Russell Office Building. Each one of the silhouettes represented one Minnesota woman murdered in an act of domestic violence. You think about this now, and you might be used to seeing these things. You might be used to seeing quilts that have been made with each square to a victim of domestic violence or silhouettes or other things that go around the country. But at that time, back in 1993, that was unique. It was something people were not talking about. The Wellstones felt it was their duty to bring that forward, as did then-Senator Biden and Senator Leahy and other people who were involved in this issue.
So many of the women Senators who spoke today--Senator Mikulski, Senator Hutchison, who I see has joined us on the floor--on a bipartisan basis, they all came together and said that we must get this done.
Again, Senator Wellstone understood as well as anybody that this was an issue that had too long been ignored and found a way to bring the story to his colleagues in the Senate. Paul and Sheila may no longer be with us, but their legacy lives on. The Sheila Wellstone Institute continues its work by promoting awareness of violence against women and ensuring that ending this problem remains a national priority.
The Wellstones' sons Mark and David have also continued the work their parents began through their nonprofit Wellstone Alliance. Among many other things, Wellstone Action and Mark Wellstone in particular worked hard to ensure that the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized in 2006.
As we look today for a potential vote on the Violence Against Women Act , I would like my fellow Senators to remember these words Senator Wellstone spoke many years ago.
We can no longer stand by and say it is someone else's problem. What are we waiting for? Too many have spoken with their voices and their lives, and this violence must end.
We all know we can no longer stand by and say it is someone else's problem. We cannot let our own differences, minor though they be, on various provisions get in the way of the fact that this has always been a bipartisan bill, that this bill has 60 cosponsors, that this bill was led by Senator Leahy and Senator Crapo from the very beginning, a Democrat and a Republican working together.
This is the time to pass this bill.
I yield the floor.