The 1994 domestic violence law (PL 103-322) was reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2000 and 2005. Besides the tribal lands issue, other controversies erupted during the 112th Congress over the inclusion of new protections for domestic violence victims who are gay and lesbian and immigrants.
Another problem arose last year because the Senate legislation included a revenue increase that was part of a Democratic effort to make more visas available to immigrant victims of domestic abuse. House Republican leaders charged that the provision was unconstitutional, because the Constitution requires all revenue legislation to originate in the House.
This year’s Senate bill scraps that visa revenue provision in an effort to expedite the legislation. By an overwhelming 85-8 vote, the Senate on Monday agreed to proceed to debate on the five-year reauthorization, and Leahy claims wide support.
“Our bill has more than 60 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, and together we can finally finish what we started last year,” Leahy said in a floor statement.
But Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, called the tribal language a “key stumbling block.” He warned that without a compromise, he would offer a substitute measure more appealing to the House.
In a Statement of Administration Policy on the Senate bill, the White House emphasized that it “strongly supports” the tribal lands provision. According to the Justice Department, American Indians are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races, and one in three American Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.