Daniel Reilly, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in opposition to House Republicans' partisan bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“I thank the distinguished Ranking Member [John Conyers] from Michigan who's been such an extraordinary fighter for the rights of all people in our country, and I rise in opposition to this bill.
“I would say as an aside, the last speaker talked about Native Americans. The National Congress of American Indians, of course, says: ‘this measure does nothing to address the crux of the issue – a lack of local authority to handle misdemeanor level and domestic dating violence when the perpetrator is non-Indian.’ It goes on to oppose this legislation.
“I rise in sadness, Madam Speaker. I was a co-sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act in 1994. We passed a bill that has helped law enforcement reduce domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. While great progress has been made, unfortunately one in three women is the victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. That's a perfect example of why we need to work together in a bipartisan fashion to re-authorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act.
“I will tell my friends: the Senate did this. Why is it that we have to choose disunity and confrontation over consensus? I don't know why that is. Particularly on an issue of this great importance to the American people. The Senate came together, 68 of them, 2/3 of the United States Senate, Republicans and Democrats, overwhelmingly supported this, and every woman in the United States Senate supported the Senate bill. Every one – Republican women, Democratic women – who know firsthand the crisis that confronts our communities.
“However, this version was reported by the Judiciary Committee with no bipartisan support and, indeed, bipartisan opposition. Why do we have to do that? We could have come together. We should have come together. The Senate came together. There's no reason we can't, other than trying to make our points on a partisan basis. This bill is weaker than existing law, it is regressive, and it sends the wrong message about our values.
“The Senate version extends new protections to Native Americans and to all who are targeted, regardless of sexual orientation. Isn't that our value, to protect every individual? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all individuals are endowed by their creator.’ Shouldn't we protect all individuals? Not exclude some?
“Not only does the House version fail to include those protections, it also makes it harder for law enforcement to encourage immigrant victims to come forward and seek help and justice. I met with over 30 members of the law enforcement community on Monday. We talked about generally gang violence but we talked about VAWA, we talked about the ability of people to come forward, make complaints, feel comfortable doing that, and enhancing the ability to get domestic offenders out of the cycle of violence against domestic partners or others. They all agreed. They all agreed that we ought to make it easier, not harder. We make it harder in this bill. This is not the right way to go.
“This version is opposed by hundreds of groups. I've got a list here. I’m not going to read it. Leader Pelosi submitted it for the record. Hundreds of groups are opposed to this, including the American Bar Association, and are urging a no vote. I'm going to vote ‘no’ on this, and I hope my colleagues do so as well so we can adopt a bill that has overwhelming bipartisan support and the support of these groups. Why do we confront these groups, say ‘no, you're wrong, we know better?’ We know better, you've worked on this, for years, for decades, but we're going to go our own way.’ And this bill is opposed by hundreds of groups representing victims, advocates, faith-based organizations, as well as law enforcement.
“Now, almost every one of us, every one of us, almost, I imagine, has had some personal experience with this. In our own families, ourselves, as lawyers, as doctors, as neighbors, as friends, as fellow church members. We all know the costs of this violence. Let us come together and act together.
“This should not be a vehicle for partisan confrontation. We should ensure that law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to prevent domestic violence and provide victims with the assistance they need. Let us vote ‘no’ on this legislation, and then let us move forward in a bipartisan, constructive, overwhelmingly supported fashion that our colleagues in the United States Senate did in a bipartisan way.”