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Protecting women should be an easy decision


It’s been very frustrating to watch the debate over The Violence Against Women act continue with our lawmakers. While the Senate was set to pass the bill this week, there were still questions on whether or not the House of Representatives would follow suit and make this important piece of legislation law. 

Really, we shouldn’t even be discussing it had lawmakers done their jobs and renewed it in 2011.

Just to give some background, The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a federal law aimed at ending violence against women and remedying the laws and social practices that have fostered and justified the history of violence against women. VAWA was first passed in 1994, as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and it was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. The current authorization expired in 2011.

VAWA focuses on nine specific areas of intervention: enhancing judicial and law enforcement tools to combat violence against women (Title I); improving services for victims (Title II); services, protection, and justice for young victims of violence (Title III); strengthening America’s families by preventing violence (Title IV); strengthening the healthcare system’s response (Title V); housing opportunities and safety for battered women and children (Title VI); providing economic security for victims (Title VII); protection of battered and trafficked immigrants (Title VIII); and safety for Indian women (Title IX). 

You look at the nine specific areas and have to wonder what our lawmakers were thinking when first they didn’t renew it, and now, when they are struggling over whether or not to bring it back.

This is another example of why Republicans are struggling to earn support from women. They have been holding up legislation based on one aspect where they don’t like the Indian reservations being able to prosecute suspects who commit crimes.

At the end of the day, I would rather know that these extra protections are in place to help all women, rather than letting some petty difference halt this vital legislation.

I think the amendments being proposed in the new legislation are good ones. VAWA chief sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) proposed amendments that would beef up resources to combat human trafficking, and would expand provisions to extend coverage to gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans who suffer from domestic abuse.

In an exchange on the floor last week, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) provoked Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) on VAWA. Cantor responded that it’s a “priority” for Republicans to “move and act on this bill” - but signaled that divisions linger.

“We want to protect the women who are subject to abuse on tribal lands, and unfortunately there are issues that don’t directly bear on that that have come up, that have complicated it,” Cantor said. “But in working with [Hoyer’s] office as well as the vice president’s, I hope to be able to deal with this and bring it up in a expeditious manner.”

However, according to reports, by the end of the week there was no progress to speak of.

At the end of the day, Republicans focusing on 2016 should start realizing that actions speak louder than words.