What happens after the current fiscal year, when the authorization for the current VAWA programs expires, is an open question. It is unclear whether Congress will pass the fiscal 2013 spending bill that funds VAWA programs before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year. It’s not unusual for programs to continue to be funded after their authorizations expire, and Murray said that could be the path forward while Democrats continue to fight for their reauthorization.
At the press conference Murray, joined by other Senate Democrats and crooner Michael Bolton, who said he has been advocating for “at risk” women and children for more than 20 years, stressed the importance of the Native American provision.
“The Senate included Native American coverage for the first time ever,” Murray said. “In doing so, we have shed a light on an issue that has remained in the dark for a very long time. That is why I have said today I am not going to vote for a Violence Against Women Act that shuts that door again. We have to leave it open.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who was also at the briefing, said the provision is needed because “there were people falling through the cracks, getting beaten up, that no one was looking out for.”
Under current law, “tribal courts do not have jurisdiction over non-Indian defendants who abuse and attack their Indian spouses on Indian land even though more than 50 percent of Native women are married to non-Indians,” Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, said.
“Prosecution of domestic violence crimes in Indian country often fall through the cracks since federal and state law enforcement and prosecutors have limited resources that may be located hours away from tribal communities,” Klobuchar continued.
Republicans argue they want to pass a bill and lament what they believe is the politicizing of the bipartisan issue of providing aid to victims of domestic violence.
“I don’t know why so many people want to make the reauthorization a political issue, which it should not be,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said.
Cornyn is head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Murray is head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
GOP aides said Democrats don’t want a solution, claiming they want to use the issue for campaign trail fodder.
“I agree,” Cornyn said.
Murray dismissed the charge and noted that abuse is not a partisan issue.
“This is a bipartisan bill ... out of the Senate with all Democratic and Republican women voting for it.”
A House GOP aide said, “The ball is in the Senate’s court.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.