Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the House floor today in opposition to House Republicans' refusal to take up the Senate-passed Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and instead pass a version of VAWA that weakens critical protections for women. Below are the Leader's remarks:
“Thank you very much Madam Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding. I thank him for his leadership on this important issue - not only as this legislation comes to the floor, but for the past couple of decades on the subject. I commend the maker of our motion to accept the Senate bill, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, for her sincere leadership on this issue as well.
“Madam Speaker, 18 years ago, Members of Congress came together, some of us gathered in this chamber right now, came together to make history: with the original passage of the Violence Against Women Act, we helped ensure that no victim of domestic violence has to suffer in silence. I want to especially salute our Vice President, Joe Biden, [he] was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate at the time, and many Members on both sides of the aisle, to pass that legislation, again, making history. The original Violence Against Women Act took domestic violence out of the shadows and shone bright sunshine upon it.
“In the years since, domestic violence has decreased by more than 50 percent. What a remarkable outcome. Twice, in the intervening years, we have come together in a bipartisan way to reauthorize and strengthen the law. Today, this year, and now, our colleagues in the Senate acted similarly - passing a strong bill with a strong bipartisan vote of 68- - including the support of every single woman in the Senate, Democratic and Republican alike. In doing so they not only built on the history of the past but they made progress for the safety of American women.
“In sharp contrast, sadly, while it was a strong bipartisan bill in the Senate, and our substitute that we requested from the Rules Committee was to be able to put forth the Senate bill, so that would be Senate Democrats and Republicans, House Democrats all in agreement. Unfortunately, in sharp contrast, House Republicans have brought to the floor today a bill that is controversial in that it will weaken the protections we have given to those who suffer domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. This legislation on the floor fails vulnerable people: members of the LGBT community, Native American women, and immigrant victims. All people deserve to be protected from domestic violence; there should be no exceptions to this law. We can't say ‘women of America we're passing a bill to protect you, not so fast in your applause if you happen to be a member of the LGBT community, an immigrant - legal or otherwise, or a Native American woman.'
“Because the Republican bill is a step backward from the current law of the land, more than 300 organizations have spoken out in opposition: from the American Bar Association to the YWCA. And I would like to submit that list for the record - pages and pages for the record. Local law enforcement officials have said that this Republican House bill ‘will impede criminal investigations, undermine prosecutions and interfere with victim safety.' I repeat the quotations the local enforcement officials have said this bill quote: ‘will impede criminal investigations, undermine prosecutions and interfere with victim safety,' end quote. Religious organizations such as the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the National Association of Evangelicals have also expressed strong opposition to certain provisions of this legislation. The many advocates and experts who work day in and day out on this issue, on the issue of domestic violence, have also opposed the House Republican version of [the] Violence Against Women Act. Republicans have chosen not to listen to the professionals in the field and are failing to give the many organizations serving battered women the tools that they need.
“Madam Speaker, again, I thank you for accepting the full list of groups opposing the bill, to be entered into the record. The Obama Administration has said in their Statement of Administration Policy that the legislation ‘rolls back existing law and removes long-standing protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault - crimes that predominantly affect women.' That is why the President's senior advisors have said they would recommend that the President veto this bill.
“Today, this House of Representatives has heard powerful statements from women Members of Congress about the need to pass a strong Violence Against Women bill, whether it is acted upon - and I hope that the safety of women will be high on the list of our colleagues as they determine their vote.
“For nearly 20 years, the Violence Against Women Act has strengthened communities and provided critical, life-saving support to victims of violence. Because of this law, more victims get the help they need and domestic violence rates have decreased. Not only has VAWA saved lives, it has saved money. All Americans are entitled to feel safe - including in their own homes - everyone of us. Yet too many women continue to live in fear. That is why we must strengthen - never weaken - the Violence Against Women Act. And I want to commend the Members of the Judiciary Committee, my colleagues on the House side, the Democratic side, who have brought such tremendous intellectual resource to this legislation, the listening to those who minister to the needs of women who have been victims of domestic violence, and to those who are trying to protect it.
“I know that everyone in this body, Democratic and Republican alike has the same goal; which is the safety of women. We not only want us all to have the same goal, we want us to have the same goal for all women in America. And that's why we must strengthen - never weaken, the Violence Against Women Act.
“Because this bill on the floor currently rolls back current law and fails to protect all victims of violence, I urge my colleagues to oppose it. And yield back the balance of my time.”