Everyone in the political sphere, on cable television, and most certainly in Washington, D.C., has only one thing on the mind pre-Christmas, and it isn’t the fat guy in the red suit (and/or Jesus). It’s the fiscal cliff.
And while it’s an incredibly important — and incredibly complex — debate, it’s not the only one worth having right now.
There’s this other thing — this thing that has been happening on a bipartisan basis for eighteen years — that is sitting in the House of Representatives right now while our national confidence in Congress sits at about 6 percent, and our senators are filibustering their own bills. It’s the Violence Against Women Act. This seemingly procedural piece of legislation — which usually is reauthorized without question whenever it comes up — is in danger of expiring if the House doesn’t act before the end of session.
“This should not be controversial. This is something that should be capable of passing on a voice vote,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D – Mo.) said on Wednesday at a panel discussion on the women’s vote.
A version of VAWA that expanded protections to LGBT, undocumented immigrant, and Native American abuse victims passed in the Senate earlier this year with bipartisan support. But those expansions stirred up controversy in the House, which has been sitting on the reauthorization since May.
“They should be ashamed of themselves,” McCaskill said. “… Those who do support it who are Republican women, they should be the ones who are showing the country right now that they can force the leadership in their party to do what’s right for women who are really in jeopardy every single day if we do not get this done before Christmas.”
“We must send the President a strong, bipartisan bill that protects all those vulnerable to domestic violence,” the letter reads.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking in the United States. VAWA funding goes toward helping victims of domestic violence find a way out. It provides funding for rape crisis advocates, who answer the phone and walk rape survivors through the medical and legal process. The money helps train nurses to be certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners — experts at collecting evidence that helps put perpetrators behind bars. It funds shelters and provides staffing for processing orders of protection.
None of this is controversial. All of it is essential for the 12 million women and men this type of violence affects.
“I am as worried about VAWA as I am about the fiscal cliff stuff,” McCaskill said. “… If we really fail to get this done, I’ll start next year determined, but slightly depressed that we have so much more work to do than we should have to do at this point.”
Sandi Villarreal is Web Editor for Sojourners. You can follow her on Twitter @Sandi.