Today the Senate conducted the final
vote on VAWA. It passed by a vote of 95-0. This follows on
the heels of a victory in the House on October 6th
where the vote was 371-1. Thanks to the dedication and hard
work of advocates throughout the country (domestic violence
and sexual assault advocates are being talked about in
Washington as one of the most organized and energetic
grassroots lobbying groups in recent memory), the VAWA
Reauthorization Act is now ready for the Presidents
signature. It authorizes $3.3 billion to address violence
against women over the next 5 years and includes coverage
for dating violence and new programs for transitional
housing, supervised visitation centers, civil legal
assistance and judicial education, as well as provisions to
give additional protection to battered immigrant women (see
attached summary). Here are some of the details what has
been happening in recent days. As you probably know by now,
there has been a
lot of political maneuvering with respect to the Violence
Against Women Act Reauthorization bill over the past several
weeks. The House version of the bill passed on September 26,
2000 with overwhelming support. The vote was 415 in favor
and only 3 opposed. After the House passed the bill, behind
the scenes discussions took place to create a compromise
version of the VAWA Reauthorization that would combine the
best elements from the House and Senate bills.
The resulting VAWA bill, which would reauthorize all VAWA
programs for an additional 5 years and create some important new
programs, as well as a handful of other bills, were then amended to the
Trafficking Victims Protection Act Conference Report. The Trafficking Victims
Protection Act contains provisions for the protection for victims of
international sex trade, slavery and forced labor. Other bills included in the
package were: 1) The Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act - legislation that
revises the legal definition that allows federal courts to award damages to
terrorist victims and their families using the frozen assets of countries
suspected of supporting terrorism; 2) Aimees Law - which forces states to pay
for the conviction an incarceration of a repeat sex offender if he or she is
released from custody and then convicted of a similar crime in another state;
and 3) The 21st Century Amendment Enforcement Act - legislation
which gives more power to states in enforcing laws that regulate the interstate
shipment of alcoholic beverages in order to crack down on Internet sales of
liquor to youth. This final package was filed on October 5, 2000 and became
known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act Conference Report (H.R. 3244).
It was then presented to both the House and Senate for a final vote.
On October 6, 2000, the House of Representatives brought the
Conference Report to the floor for consideration. The first order of business
was the discussion and floor vote of House Resolution 613, which was a rule
allowing the vote on the conference bill. This resolution passed 356-28. Those
who spoke in favor of adopting this resolution were Representatives Deborah
Pryce (R-OH), Louise M..Slaughter (D-WA), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Sue Kelly
(R-NY), Mark Adam Foley (R-FL), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Sheila Jackson-Lee
(D-TX), Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Tim Roemer (D-Indiana), and Janice Schakowsky
(D-IL). Those in opposition of the resolution included Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA)
who spoke out against Aimees Law, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) who discussed his
dissatisfaction in having VAWA grouped with unrelated bills, Rep. Zoe Lofgren
(D-CA) who protested the Internet wine sales tax, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney
(D-NY) who spoke out against the non-related bills attached to the sex trafficking
bill and VAWA.
A co-sponsor of the sex trafficking bill, Rep. Bill Gilman (R-NY), started
discussions on the floor about the importance of stopping the trafficking of
human beings in the United States and across international borders. Rep. John
Conyers (D-MI) spoke next in support of the original VAWA, despite his misgivings
about the total package. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) gave his total support of the
conference report and VAWA by saying "The legislation is a balanced and
comprehensive effort to enhance the ability of states and localities to prevent
and combat violence against women." Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-CT) emphasized
the need to move this piece of legislation quickly due to additional legislation
such as VAWA, which he pointed out had expired last week, "leaving millions
of American women without protection from the violence that they suffer in their
lives." Rep. Gejdenson (D-CT) also spoke strongly about his support for the
sex trafficking portion of the bill. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) gave her strong words
of support for H.R. 3244 because the bill "addresses the devastating
problems of international sex trafficking, sexual predators, violence against
women and much more".
The lead sponsor of VAWA in the House, Representative
Constance Morella (MD-R) assured the Members that passing this conference would
be a "reward for the American people" after a long struggle to get
VAWA passed and she referred to the bill the "strongest commitment that
Congress has ever made to fighting domestic violence and sexual assault."
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) echoed her support of VAWA, in particular the
provisions for teen dating violence and battered immigrant women. Rep. Sheila
Jackson-Lee (D-TX) spoke in favor of VAWA, focusing her remarks on the
importance of the bill for immigrant women in violent relationships and telling
a story about a woman from Guatemala who would be helped by this legislation.
Rep. Marge Roukema (R-NJ) shares some examples of how programs have helped
victims of domestic violence as she consented the passage of the bill with full
support. Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL) spoke on support of portion of the
conference report which would end bootleg selling of alcohol over the internet.
Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), member of the Subcommittee on Human Resources of
the Committee of the Committee on Ways and Means, shared his approval the bill
H.R. 3422 being passed. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) stated "this bill is a
victory for the millions of American women who cannot advocate for themselves,
women who suffer abuse in silence and in shame" and ended telling her
fellow congress members "we have much work left to do." Rep. Donald
M. Payne (D-NJ) shared his concerns on combating trafficking of persons. Rep.
Matt Salmon (R-AZ) followed with his remarks on the importance of Aimees Law
because of the difference it would make through the lives that could be saved.
Former prosecutor Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) spoke about the importance
of VAWA in prosecuting domestic violence cases. Rep. Steven Rothman (D-NJ) added
his support to the bill, especially the Secure Our Schools Act. Rep. Carolyn
Maloney (D-NY) emphasized her support for both VAWA and the trafficking bill.
Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonnald (D-CA) discussed her views on sex-trafficking
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) thanked those who
worked tirelessly to bring this legislation to the floor and urged his
colleagues to support reauthorizing VAWA on both sides of the House. Rep.
Christopher Smith (R-NJ) commented that the bill "has attracted such broad
support, not only because it is pro-women, pro-child, pro-human rights,
pro-family values, and anti-crime, but because it addresses a problem that
cries out for a solution." Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) stressed the importance
of VAWA for Colorado, which received $15 million in grants which has done more
than help assist victims of domestic violence. Rep. Udall stated that
"more remains to be done. More women are injured by domestic violence each
year than by automobile accidents and cancer combined." Rep. Karen
McCarthy (D-MO) addressed the importance of this bill being passed because of
communities with limited resources which need VAWA funding and because
"the trafficking of women and girls is growing. " Rep. Eddie Bernice
Johnson (D-TX) stated that "H.R. 3422 goes a long way toward curbing the
violence that affects women victims by assuring access to free shelters."
Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI) also lent her support to the passing of H.R. 3422. The
final vote in the house was 371-1. Sixty two members did not vote because most
of them had left for their districts for the weekend.
The Senate passed the Trafficking Victims Conference Report
today (October 11, 2000) with a final vote of 95-0 after several long hours of
debate. Most of the debate focused on procedural issues, including a motion
from Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) to strip Aimees Law from the bill. The
motion did not pass and on this final day that the Senate plans to meet in full
session, VAWA reauthorization passed.
Thank you again to all of you who are nursing sore
fingers from dialing your Members of Congress and typing e-mails, letters and
faxes. This great victory belongs to
each and every one of you! As Congresswoman Connie Morella (R-MD) stated
earlier today, "This legislation passed because of all the organizations
out there making sure that Congress heard their voices loud and clear."
Violence Prevention Fund VAWA story.