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February 7, 2013

Senate poised to renew Violence Against Women Act



Republicans said the Senate provision was unconstitutional, citing a 1978 Supreme Court decision which held that in most cases tribes did not have the authority to try non-Indians. Senate sponsors said their bill would be upheld by the courts. The bill, said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., “will allow us to make real progress in addressing the horrifying epidemic of domestic violence in tribal communities.” He cited a recent study finding that almost three-fifths of Native American women have been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., the lead player in crafting the House bill, said Wednesday he had been having daily meetings on how best to move the bill forward, and had been in touch with the office of Vice President Joe Biden, who as a senator was a lead sponsor of the original 1994 bill.
Speaking on the House floor, Cantor said that “while we want to protect the women who are subject to abuse on tribal lands,” the bill had been “complicated” by other issues. “I hope to be able to deal with this, bring it up in an expeditious manner.”
A possible solution has been offered by Republican Reps. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, one of three House members of Indian heritage, and Darrell Issa, R-Calif. They have proposed giving non-Indians the right to request that their case be moved to a federal court if they feel they are not receiving a fair trial.
Cole, in an interview, said he was meeting with Cantor and others involved on the issue and there was a “genuine effort to find common ground.” He 1 in 3 Native American women are subject to sexual assault in their lifetimes, often by non-Indians, and that federal authorities often are too far away to help. Cole called it “bizarre” that tribal leaders were unable to pursue cases.

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