VAWA and the Lame Duck Congress

  • Dec 11, 2012
  • meredith
By Heidi Hall, Emerge California Class of 2013 and Congressional Candidate for 2014
As an Emerge 2013 Participant, and a newly announced candidate for the US Congress, District 01 in California, the VAWA and “lame duck” Congress have been heavy on my mind.
Our “lame duck” Congress, the 112th, is in its final few days before it is no more.  What to do in the final flurry of bill-making, especially when so much has stacked up to be done in this historic “do-nothing” Congress.  Especially if you are one of the unlucky ones who got kicked out of your seat in the recent election, and will not be coming back.  What would you want your short-lived legacy to be?
One item that should top the to-do list of our responsible public servants is the re-authorization of the once bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA,  which was first passed as a public law in 1994.  Although some were skeptical at first, in July of 2005, the ACLU gave the law a ringing endorsement, stating that : “ VAWA is one of the most effective pieces of legislation enacted to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  It has dramatically improved the law enforcement response to violence against women and has provided critical services necessary to support women in their struggle to overcome abusive situations.” Well, what is there to argue with about that! The proof is in the pudding – the law works.
Well, in the sausage-making mode of how bills get crafted behind the scenes, we now have two competing VAWA bills, complicating what should be an easy reauthorization and both stuck in Congress.  The Senate bill expands the original law to include Native American women, LGBT women, and illegal immigrant women.  The Republican supported House bill has rejected these corrections to the original law figuring, I guess, that not all women deserve protection from violence, just those anointed by the House GOP as worthy.
Apparently the extremists in Congress did not get the memo about the 2012 election.  Well, the virtual memo anyway, written by the votes of so many men, and especially women, who made it crystal clear in their electoral choices that the bizarre discussions taking place in government chambers about women’s bodies, righteous rape, and whether pay for equal work should depend upon which genitals you came to work with, was really, truly and honestly completely unacceptable.  
As it so happens, just last week I read in the news that Congress was able to speedily  craft, float, and agree upon an important bill that they hoped to get passed by Thanksgiving so that they could get home to their turkey dinners – a bill to increase access to federal land for hunters and fishermen! Because, you know, hunting is critically important to the health and well-being of our society.  Protecting women against violence?  Hmmm, not so much.
Let us see if the “lame duck” Congress is really going to continue to spend its meager time on the hunting of ducks and leave the most vulnerable women in the dust.  Should they make this choice, I say we gather together and cook their collective gooses.  Or geese.  You know what I mean.