VAWA Update: Senate Judiciary Passes S. 1925

Thanks to all of our valiant VAWA Supporters, S.1925, the Leahy/Crapo bill to Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Feb.2! 

In the past few days, we’ve called upon activists in every state and territory to help send a strong message to the Senate about the importance of this bill and the various provisions in it.  And you did it – key Senate offices were flooded with calls making it clear that ALL of the VAWA bill is important.  You were not willing to abandon any principle or constituency. Thank you!  You really made a difference!

What exactly passed?

As expected, Senator Leahy offered a “Manager’s Amendment” which replaced the original S.1925 and the new version was accepted by unanimous consent.   The new version  included modifications in response to requests from other Senators and from the field.  It retained key provisions such as the pieces addressing tribal jurisdiction, underserved populations, communities of color and immigration and so many more!  The Amendment retained the funding levels that were in the introduced bill (already reduced to 2000 reauthorization levels) and also retained the “no match” requirement for victim service providers.  Your support made all of this possible. 

There were other amendments offered as well.  Two that passed were an amendment increasing penalties for a third offense of drunk driving and a controversial amendment to instate a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison for aggravated sexual assault.

Not approved was  an amendment offered by Senator Grassley that would replace all of the Leahy/Crapo bill to reauthorize VAWA.  This Amendment would have weakened and undermined VAWA in many ways including a massive reduction in authorized funding to 40% lower than the Leahy/Crapo bill.  It would have eliminated services and protections from violence for communities of color and LGBTQ communities. It would have stripped historic provisions to improve the ability of tribal governments to hold offenders accountable and re-defined youth eliminating those aged 20 to 24—taking away the ability of advocates to serve the population most at risk of dating violence.  The Amendment would have eliminated the engaging men program that helps men and boys become anti-violence advocates and would greatly reduce the ability of middle schools, high schools and colleges to do prevention education with young people.  Perhaps most offensively and antithetical to all the great work that has been accomplished under VAWA, the Amendment would have eliminated the Office on Violence Against Women.  There was a definite hostility to providing services and programs for the broadest possible groups of victims.  Click here to read (the amendment offered by) Senator Grassley's statement.  

While the destructive Grassley Amendment was defeated in committee, it was a party line vote.  All 8 republican senators on the committee (Grassley-IA, Hatch-UT, Kyl-AZ, Sessions-AL, Graham-SC, Cornyn-TX, Lee-UT and Coburn-OK) voted for the destructive Amendment.  Luckily, all 10 committee democrats (Leahy-VT, Kohl-WI, Feinstein-CA, Schumer-NY, Durbin-IL, Whitehouse-RI, Klobuchar-MN, Franken-MN, Coons-DE and Blumenthal-CT) voted against the Amendment.  Please call these Senators and thank them for their support of VAWA!

What now?

Our efforts to move VAWA along must continue.  We are still asking local, state, tribal and national organizations and agencies to sign on to the letter in support of VAWA. While the dramatic size and breadth of the list of supporters is impressive, we want to continue to add to it until no Member of Congress can possibly oppose the VAWA reauthorization.  Reach out to others in your community and encourage their support.  The current version of the letter can be viewed in the VAWA Supporters Section of 4vawa.org. To add your organization or agency to the list of supporters please email us at reauthorizeVAWA@gmail.com.  

We are also continuing to ask Senators to sign on to co-sponsor S.1925.  Your calls are working!  We’ve had a number of Senators sign on in the past 72 hours and are up to 36 at this writing, including 5 Republicans.  Let’s keep up the pressure.