Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the House floor today to call upon House Republicans to keep critical protections for women and enact the bipartisan, Senate-passed Violence Against Women Act rather than the House Republican alternative that would weaken critical protections for immigrant and Native American women as well as members of the LGBT community. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Madam Speaker, when Congress enacted the original Violence Against Women Act nearly two decades ago, we sent a very clear and immediate message to the American people. No, and I emphasize ‘no,’ woman would ever be forced to suffer in silence in the face of abuse. No one would ever be forced to fear for their lives and safety in their own homes because of domestic violence. That promise formed the foundation of our work then and it has served as a cornerstone of our efforts in the years since to authorize and strengthen this landmark law. Even as the times have changed, our commitments have remained the same and strong, yet over the years we have always sought out ways to improve this legislation.
“Today, on the floor of the House we will have a very clear choice: we have the choice to support the bipartisan legislation that has passed in the United States Senate, it passed with a 78-22, 77 percent of the Senate voted for this legislation. A majority of the Republicans in the Senate supported this legislation. All of the women in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike, support the bipartisan legislation, that I hope we will have an opportunity to vote on today on the floor of the House.
“In contrast, we have the House Republican proposal, which while described in so lovely terms, are a step backward for the women of America and those who suffer domestic violence or sexual assault. It’s really hard to explain why, what eyes are the Republicans looking through, that they do not see the folly of their ways on this legislation that they are proposing. Not only is it much weaker than the Senate bill, it is much weaker than current law and that is why, that is why whatever, whatever groups you want to name, whether it’s 1,300 groups opposed the – from ‘A’ to ‘Y,’ we don’t have a ‘Z’ – groups, any groups that have anything to do throughout our country, in every state, oppose the Republican legislation that is on the floor today. That is why the American Bar Association has stated in its letter to members in opposition to the Republican bill, it says: ‘the House substitute eliminates certain critical improvements and actually rolls back some provisions of the law that have been successful.’
“So, let’s understand the difference between these two pieces of legislation that are on the floor today. Our bill, again, a reflection of the bipartisan bill in the Senate, says to all of America’s women: ‘you will be protected.’ The Republican bill says to the women of America: ‘we want to protect America’s women, everybody step forward, who is an American woman, not so fast if you’re from the immigrant community, if you’re a Native American, if you happen to be a part of the LGBT community.’ It’s just not right. America has always been, and our Constitution demonstrates, a country of expanding opportunity and protection and diminishing discrimination. And today on the floor of the House, the Republican bill discriminates against a woman if she is lesbian or gay, whatever LGBT, in any – a member of that community – discriminates against a woman if she lives on a reservation, has been assaulted by someone not from the reservation, discriminates against women in terms of their immigration status. Exactly the women who are the most vulnerable, who have a situation where there is a power over them, whether it’s immigration law, or whatever. The most in need of this bill are excluded by the Republican, the Republican proposal.
“So, this is nothing to be proud of, this Republican proposal. It must be defeated and its defeat will enable us to bring to the floor the Senate bipartisan, overwhelmingly passed and supported legislation, which strengthens current law, not weakens it, and expands the legislation which was passed. It’s not been a partisan issue. I was here when the bill passed before. I saw the great work of Pat Schroeder and of Louise Slaughter, who argued so beautifully for this legislation yesterday as the ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee. I salute the work of Joe Biden, who was the, really, the author; without Vice President Biden at that time there would not have been a Violence Against Women Act. And I am so proud of the work of our Chairman, and a leader on this legislation then and now, Chairman John Conyers, former Chair of the Judiciary Committee, now Ranking Member. We’ll be hearing more from him shortly, but he has been there steady and strong as a champion in the fight to end violence against women, thank you.
“Our legislation today, the House proposal, the Democratic proposal, which is really not, it’s a Republican – a bipartisan proposal from the Senate, but that is authored and presented by Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin. Congresswoman Gwen Moore has shared her own personal story with us and the strength of her knowledge of the issue, whether it’s knowledge of the legislation, or knowledge of the trauma of domestic violence and assault is something that has, has impressed so many of us. And when we pass this legislation, and we will, it will be in large measure because of her leadership, her persistence, her wisdom, her knowledge of this issue and the difference that every word in the legislation means in the homes of America and for women who are at risk.
“Now, who thinks this is a good idea? I don’t know – I hear the gentle woman, who commands great respect in this body, describe this bill as if it’s a good thing. It is not. When will we ever – why are, why is it so long, it’s been 500, over 500 days, Madam Speaker, 500 days, my colleagues, since the expiration of the Violence Against Women Act. Last spring, almost one year ago, April of last year, the Senate in a bipartisan way, passed the Violence Against Women Act. In a bipartisan way. Months have gone by with no reauthorization. Congress ended, a new Congress came in, the Senate, once again, voted, again, in a strong bipartisan way, for legislation.
“The House Republicans want to be odd man out on this, or odd person out on this, and have a bill that is, weakens current law, as well as does not rise to the occasion of changing times that the Senate bill does. Other of my colleagues will go more into the specifics of it and I – I just, too much to put into the record of all of the groups who oppose the House bill, it is almost unanimous, some people were holding out with those who were hopeful that something, something – the light would shed on this on the Republican side of the aisle. But this is a remarkable day because we have clarity in between the two proposals that are coming forth, one of them has the support of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the House, the President of the United States stands ready to sign it. The other is opposed by anybody, almost everybody who has anything to do with addressing the challenge of violence against women. And we have the documentation to prove that. And it goes into the specifics, that go into the specifics.
“But I just want to say that, how proud I am of Congresswoman Gwen Moore, she comes from Wisconsin, she is a respected leader in the House, she has made this, I would say her life’s work, but she has a number of things on her agenda, but she has made a tremendous difference, not only in terms of this legislation, but more importantly, in terms of what it means, what it means in the lives of America’s women – all of America’s women.
“With that, Madam Chair, I reserve the balance of my time.”