“It is time for [House] Republican leaders to stop talking about how much they care about women, and start acting to protect women.”
“Every day House Republicans stall, another three women will die at the hands of their abusers.”
Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today about the Violence Against Women Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery.
I am optimistic that today the Senate will complete work on an important, bipartisan measure – reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. But Senate passage means little if our counterparts in the House of Representatives fail to act on this crucial legislation again. The Republican-controlled House failed to act last year, and the women of America do not want them to fail again.
I was reassured to hear House Majority Leader Eric Cantor say yesterday that he “care[s] very deeply about women,” and said the House would act to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. But Americans heard that same promise last year. And despite overwhelming evidence that this legislation saves lives, House Republican leaders used procedural gimmicks and stall tactics to block its reauthorization.
I would remind Leader Cantor and his Republican colleagues of the seriousness of delay. Every minute House Republicans wait to act, another 24 Americans will become victims of domestic violence. Every day House Republicans stall, another three women will die at the hands of their abusers. Every year House Republicans put off action in order to please extremists within their own party more than 200,000 women will be sexually assaulted, more than 2 million women will be stalked and more than 1.3 million women will be abused by their partners.
It has been almost 300 days since the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to help law enforcement officials protect women and families across the country. But despite strong, bipartisan support in the Senate, Republicans in the House have refused to join the effort to end domestic abuse. These partisan delays put women’s lives at risk.
Thousands have written letters, sent emails and called to support this bill. One Nevada woman shared her story – the story of how her partner held a gun to her head and threatened to pull the trigger. She escaped with her life. Many women aren’t so fortunate. Every year, more than 1,000 women are killed by domestic abusers.
Since the Violence Against Women Act expired, more than 16 million Americans have been victimized. The law is effective. In the two decades since it was enacted, the law has helped millions of women escape their attackers and seek justice. But there is obviously much more work to do.
So I say to my friend, Leader Cantor, it is time for Republican leaders to stop talking about how much they care about women, and start acting to protect women. More than a third of women in this country have been victims of violence, sexual assault or stalking by a partner. Congress must do everything in its power to help law enforcement officials prevent these terrible crimes and prosecute the perpetrators.
Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act would help law enforcement improve strategies to prosecute violent crimes against women, provide legal assistance to victims of violence and funding for shelters that allow women to escape their abusers and safeguard youth who experience dating violence or stalking. Until we fully reauthorize the law, authorities will not have all the tools they need to fight domestic violence.
Today I hope the Senate will take bipartisan action – for the second time in two years – to protect American women and their children. And I hope the House will quickly follow suit. I trust Leader Cantor’s word that this legislation is a priority. But I won’t be the only one holding him to his promise to swiftly reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. One hundred sixty million American women are also watching and waiting to see if he turns words into action.