Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Congressman John Conyers, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, and House Democratic Members held a press conference today calling on the House Republican leadership to bring the bipartisan, Senate-passed Violence Against Women Act to the floor. Below is a transcript of Leader Pelosi’s opening and closing remarks and the Q and A session:
Leader Pelosi. Okay, we all here yet? I think so. I’m so excited to see so many Members here after a late night last night, when we heard a great State of the Union address by the President of the United States. We were so pleased that he mentioned Violence Against Women and recognized the leadership of Vice President Biden. As you know, yesterday the Senate passed the bill and I know Mr. Hoyer, our Whip, would love to tell you the numbers – I’ll leave that to him to do.
But here we are again. Last year, the Senate overwhelmingly, in a bipartisan way, passed the Violence Against Women Act. Last night, they did [again]. Now, we’re calling upon the majority in the House to bring that bill to the floor. Delay is not an option, every moment of delay is harmful to women – a delay when so many women are still forced to suffer in silence in the face of abuse. It’s not an option when women fear for their lives, really – in their own homes, or in the workforce. It’s not an option when the safety of millions of Americans – members of the LGBT community, Native Americans, and immigrants are at stake, particularly with the delay in the House.
There’s no time to waste. And so we’re just going, I’m going to yield to Mr. Hoyer. He’ll talk to you about the Senate, whatever else he wants to do. But I want to mention that you’ll be hearing from three – some of the women leaders in the House on this subject, as you know, Gwen Moore has been the champion, has been the author of this bill – the bill we had then, the companion bill we have in the House, in this Congress. Congresswoman Slaughter was an author of – a lead author of the bill when it initially authorized in the ‘90s. Congresswoman Kirkpatrick is with us, who has a large population of Native Americans in her district and can speak firsthand for the need for this legislation. Of course, we’re very honored to be joined by the – once Chairman, hopefully future Chairman, of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Conyers, our Ranking Member who’s been the leader on this issue as well, Mr. Hoyer.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you very much. I have to warn my colleagues that a vote has been called – over 300 Members have not voted yet – so we must go in a few moments. But I want to commend Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, and Congresswoman Kirkpatrick for their leadership on this issue. I do want to note and Steny will remember this, that Nita Lowey, Rosa DeLauro, and many of us on the Appropriations Committee worked very hard for the funding for this legislation that implemented it as well. So, it was, it was, it was a time though where a lot of, as Congresswoman Slaughter said, this was silent. In my community, which is very diverse, I was hearing from advocates for domestic violence legislation, but saying: ‘our people won’t speak out’ – the immigrant community – ‘they won’t talk about it,’ it’s a silent, silent problem there – Native American community, in the military – Jack Murtha was a hero, he got, he was criticized for bringing up this subject, that it would even exist in the military. And now, we know what the challenges are, much of it is improved, obviously, because of this legislation many women, and men, have been protected from violence.
What is the answer to the question of why is this bill not coming up? Let’s vote on it. With that, we’d be pleased – I know my colleagues, other than those who spoke, would be a resource to you in any questions you may have.
Q: Hi. Has anyone here actually spoken with Boehner and Cantor about what they’re doing?
Leader Pelosi. Mr. Hoyer.
Whip Hoyer. Well, as I said…
Q: And I mean beyond the call… I mean have you actually, like, talked to him?
Whip Hoyer. Yeah, I’ve talked to Eric very briefly. Eric has indicated that he supported, wants to move this legislation, indicated he talked to Joe Biden – as you know, he and the Vice President have a relationship coming out of their negotiations on the cliff. And, but he also intimates – I don’t want to – he says that a lot of his Members have had problems, which you have seen, which is why they haven’t brought the Senate bill to the floor last time.
However, it would be – with a majority of the Republicans in the United States Senate, majority voting for it, it seems there is little reason not to bring this legislation forward. It’s been worked on hard. They’ve taken care of the blue slip, the funding issue that was the problem that was articulated, why they didn’t bring it to the floor. Now there is no such impediment and I would hope they would bring it to the floor. As Ms. Slaughter, frankly they could bring it to the floor this week, I doubt they’ll do that but they ought to certainly bring it no later than the week we get back.
Leader Pelosi. And another reason why we should not be taking a break to go home. Sequester is on the horizon, we want to avoid that, we have a responsibility to work hard to do so. The Violence Against Women Act triumphantly passed in a strong bipartisan way, 78-22, those numbers are stunning, yesterday, and why can’t we just bring up that bipartisan, strongly supported bill in the Senate. Bring it up in the House.
So, while they may have some Members that have a problem with it, many, a number of the Republicans Members have come to me and said: ‘we really need to do this bill.’ I don’t want to vote against my leadership when we took the vote the last time, but I do want to send them a message that I know that this is a problem, I know that we should pass the bill, and I think, I hope that, that will weigh, that the number who do want something to happen will be as important as the number who do not want something to happen.
But if they don’t want it to happen, at least take a vote, and we could lose, or we could win. But the American people will know.
Mr. Conyers. We need to go vote.
Leader Pelosi. Any other questions?
Mr. Conyers. We need to go vote.
Leader Pelosi. Okay, what’s the time?
Q: Can I just ask?
Leader Pelosi. Just only one, yeah.
Q: Can I just ask really quickly that, Republicans are not actually in, I don’t know if the Congresswoman wants to – in terms of, their problem is that they say that there is a constitutional issue with Native American, with tribal lands having sovereignty over, being able to prosecute the people who have committed these crimes that are not from the tribal lands.
Leader Pelosi. But they are on tribal lands. And…
Q: They are on tribal lands. But they say…
Leader Pelosi. On tribal lands.
Q: But they say that the constitutional issue with that is, I mean…
Leader Pelosi. It’s an excuse, it is not a reason.
Ms. Moore. It is a glaring hole in justice for native women who are being abused. In fact, we have heard reports where perpetrators deliberately drag women back onto tribal lands so that they can circumvent justice. The counties, or the state law enforcement have no jurisdiction on the tribal lands, and the tribal courts have no jurisdiction while they’re on tribal lands. So, the solution they say is to go to federal court. You take a – I represent, there are eleven tribes in Wisconsin. So you take Bad River for example, the tribal lands, it’s five hours away from a federal court.
So, what has happened is, is of those rapes, sexual assaults, domestic violence, breaches, 52 percent of them are not dealt with in the legal system. And of those 52 percent, 67 percent of them are sexual assaults. And you heard Ann say earlier, Representative Kirkpatrick, say earlier that, you know, it might speaks volumes as to why, we’ve got two and a half times as many, as much violence against Native American women because, you know, perpetrators know that they can do this with impunity.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you.