Dem senators to GOP women: Help us pass violence law!

Source: Seattle PI

Seattle PI - Joel Connelly

Twelve Democratic women in the U.S. Senate want Republican House counterparts to help break a 220-day impasse and renew the 18-year-old federal Violence Against Women Act, which helps local law enforcement solve and prosecute crimes of violence.

The renewal of “VAWA” passed the Senate on a bipartisan 68-31 vote, with provisions expanded to protect undocumented women who are victims of domestic violence, Native American women on reservations and same-sex partners.

The Republican-run House narrowly passed a watered-down bill that deletes protection for Native and gay victims of violence.

“We know that federal law enforcement prosecutors have limited resources and, as a result, the offenses go unpunished and offenders go unpunished and more Native American women are victimized,” said the Democrats, including Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

The renewal of VAWA has meant a face-off between women in the Washington Congressional delegation.  Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., is a member of the House Republican leadership and has been trotted out as a defender of that chamber’s watered-down bill.

Asked about the Senate bill extending coverage to violence in same-sex relationships, McMorris-Rodgers told MSNBC’s Hardball last summer:

“Those are side issues that have been attached to the (Senate) bill.  There’s nothing under federal law that currently recognizes same-sex couples.  So if we should have that debate in Congress, it should be a separate debate from the Violence Against Women Act.”

Sen. Cantwell, moved by encounters with Native American women in this state, has become a fiery advocate for expanded coverage in the Senate bill.  “We cannot afford to continue to wait. We cannot afford to let the violence against Native American women continue to escalate,” she said Tuesday.  “Silence and inaction are not options.”

The 1994 law was expanded each time it was renewed.  The 200 reauthorization expanded coverage to include cases of stalking and date-related violence.  The 2006 renewal expanded protection for young women and, for the first time, brought Native women into the legislation.

The House Republican leadership, including McMorris-Rodgers– whose district includes the Colville, Spokane and Kalispell Indian reservations –  has refused to allow a floor vote on the Senate version of the bill.