Skip to main content

House GOP failed women on Violence Against Women Act

By Patty Murray, Special to CNN
January 5, 2013 -- Updated 1816 GMT (0216 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Patty Murray: House GOP stalled renewal of Violence Against Women Act
  • She says bill provided new protections for immigrants, LGBT Americans
  • She says in partisan move, House then passed a bill stripping out new protections
  • Murray: Some GOP in House say bill could pass if brought to vote. Women need House to act

Editor's note: Patty Murray, a Democrat, is the senior United States senator from Washington

(CNN) -- This week, just over 250 days since the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan and inclusive bill to extend the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives allowed the clock to run out on protections that bill would have provided to millions of women across our country.

It was an inexcusable failure by House Republican leaders and one that will have real-life implications for women who now find themselves with nowhere to turn for help. It was also another reminder, coming on the same day that House Republican leaders refused to pass aid to states ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, that these leaders continue to answer to the most radical elements of their party regardless of who or what is at stake.

Patty Murray
Patty Murray

Since it was passed into law in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has provided life-saving assistance to millions of women and families across the nation. For battered women, the law has provided critical law enforcement protections and often a way out from a life of abuse. One reason the law has worked so well in protecting a broad group of women is that since its initial passage, every time Congress has reauthorized the bill, we have done so in a bipartisan way that extends the legislation's many protections to new groups of women.

News: Backers hope to revive Violence Against Women Act

That was once again the case when the Senate took up the bill in 2012. We listened to advocates, law enforcement officers, clergy members and -- most importantly -- from the survivors themselves to find out what needed to be done to improve VAWA. And in April the Senate passed a VAWA reauthorization by a vote of 68 to 31, a rare bipartisan feat that included the support of 15 Republicans. Included in that bill were new protections granted to women who had been left out of previous versions of the bill.

Specifically, the bill included increased protections for women on college campuses across the nation following the brutal 2010 murder of Yeardley Love at the University of Virginia. It included new law enforcement measures to safeguard women on tribal reservations, one in three of whom will be raped in their lifetimes. It included nondiscrimination language for those in the LGBT community who had been unfairly left out of previous bills. And it provided protections to immigrant women, regardless of their status, who are often scared into silence at the hands of their abusers.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Opinion: Don't gut Violence Against Women Act

But for the leadership in the House of Representatives, passing a bill with life-saving protections to these new communities of women was simply not politically acceptable. So just weeks after the Senate passed our bill, in a purely ideological move, House Republicans passed a bill that specifically stripped the new protections for immigrants, the LGBT community and tribal women, and even removed protections that exist under current law.

For me and for many of my women colleagues, as well as for mothers, sisters and daughters everywhere, the House Republican's decision to pointedly discriminate against these groups of women was stunning. Surely, we should all be able to agree that where a person lives, their immigration status or who they love should not determine whether or not perpetrators of domestic violence toward them are brought to justice. Surely no police officer should ever have to ask the sexual orientation or immigration status of a woman who lies bruised and battered at the scene of a crime. Yet, the House bill drew those lines.

Debate over act centers on the vulnerable

Advocate debunks domestic violence myths
Encouraging women to speak the unspoken
College men walk a mile in high heels

So, over the course of the past nine months, I have joined with domestic violence advocates, fellow legislators and countless victims to call on House leaders to end the discrimination against these populations of women. On the Senate floor we have told the painful stories these women have shared of being scared for their own lives. In television appearances, these brave women have plead for the protections so many other women across the country enjoy. And most recently, every Democratic woman in the Senate wrote to the Republican women of the House of Representatives to appeal for their help in passing our bill.

Opinion: Sadly, some don't see it as rape

Thankfully, in response to these many calls, one by one we heard from moderate Republican voices in the House who believed they should take up and pass the Senate bill. These members of Congress made clear that if House leadership would only bring up the bill for a vote it would pass the House and be sent to the president to become law.

Yet, throughout the final weeks, days and hours of the last Congress, House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor refused to budge. Ignoring voices in their own party and the clear message sent by American women in the last election, they instead decided to side with the far right wing of their party by allowing the bill to expire.

This political gamesmanship has taken a very real toll. Every moment the House continues to delay is another moment vulnerable women are left without protections they deserve. In the next Congress one of our absolute first priorities must be passing an inclusive and bipartisan bill to extend protections to the millions of new women included in the Senate bill. As a nation we cannot accept further discrimination or delay from House Republican leaders.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Patty Murray.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2108 GMT (0508 HKT)
The NFL's new Player Conduct Policy was a missed chance to get serious about domestic violence, says Mel Robbins.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the CBO didn't provide an accurate picture of Obamacare's impact, so why rehire its boss?
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
Russian aggression has made it clear Ukraine must rethink its security plans, says Olexander Motsyk, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
The Senate committee report on torture has highlighted partisan divisions on CIA methods, says Will Marshall. Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
It would be dishonest to say that 2014 has been a good year for women. But that hasn't stopped some standing out, says Frida Ghitis.
ADVERTISEMENT