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
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2248 GMT (0648 HKT)
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2049 GMT (0449 HKT)
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1859 GMT (0259 HKT)
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT