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 19, 2014 -- Updated 2322 GMT (0722 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT