House may vote on Senate-passed VAWA bill

House may vote on Senate-passed VAWA bill

There has been an important development with VAWA. Today, the House Rules Committee voted on a rule for House floor consideration of S. 47, the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization. There will be a vote on the House Substitute, which does not contain the long needed protections for Native women. Many expect the vote on the House Substitute to fail. IF the House Substitute fails, the House will vote on S. 47 as passed by the Senate, which contains the full set of protections for Native women.

Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), a member the House Rules Committee, stood and fiercely fought to defend the protections for Native women that are in the Senate version of the VAWA bill. Cole stated explained that the jurisdiction system in place makes no sense and “at the end of the day, what we’ve got out there right now isn’t working very well…. When we’re deal with laws that impact certain groups and communities, we ought to listen to what they have to say. Over half of our Republican senate colleagues voted for this bill, and thought it passed constitutional muster…. This is one of those holes in our justice system, and common sense [dictates], you give local people the power to take care of their problem. Hunters know where to hunt, fishermen know where to fish, and predators know where to prey. The idea that we would keep tribes from doing for themselves what we’ve been unable and unwilling to do for them makes no sense.” He then told his colleagues that he will vote NO on the House substitute and in favor of the Senate bill.

The votes will happen on Thursday, February 28, 2013. Every vote will count. We urge you to continue to reach out to your local House delegation and ask your Member of Congress to stand with Congressman Cole and vote NO on the House Substitute and YES on the underlying bill, the Senate-passed VAWA, S. 47.

S. 47 is a strong, bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Michael Crapo (R-ID). S. 47 will improve VAWA programs and strengthen protections for all victims of violence. The bill includes historically important tribal provisions that will enable tribes to address domestic violence in Indian country. S. 47 passed by a vote of 78 – 22 with all 53 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 23 Republicans voting for the bill.

The House substitute that would replace S. 47 is a partisan measure. The House substitute includes disincentives for tribal governments and tribal police to combat violence against Native women, it offer too many tools for non-Native suspects of abuse to game the already broken justice system, and it limits existing tribal authority to issue civil orders of protection against non-Natives who commit violence against Indian women.

Senate Passes VAWA Reauthorization: Bill Moves to House

Senate Passes VAWA Reauthorization: Bill Moves to House

Today, the U.S. Senate passed S. 47, the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization (VAWA) of 2013, with the tribal jurisdiction provisions full intact. The bill passed by a wide bipartisan vote of 78 – 22, including all 53 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 23 out of 45 Republican senators voting in favor of the measure.

A number of senators spent time during the 3 – day debate to speak on the senate floor to support the tribal provisions, including Senators Cantwell (D-WA), Murray (D-WA), Leahy (D-VT), Begich (D-AK), Tom Udall (D-NM), Murkowski (R-AK), Franken (D-MN), Blumenthal (D-CT), and others.

Their efforts helped fight back two amendments that would have deleted the tribal jurisdiction provisions, including a broad VAWA substitute amendment offered by Senator Grassley (R-IA) and one by Senator Coburn (R-OK). The Grassley amendment was defeated by a tally of 35 – 65, and the Coburn amendment fell by a 31 – 59 vote.

Senators Grassley, Cornyn (R-TX), and Coburn all went to the floor to oppose the tribal provisions. All of them attacked the legality of the tribal provisions. Senator Cornyn called the tribal provisions “blatantly unconstitutional”, and noted that the tribal provisions risk final passage of VAWA “in order to satisfy the unconstitutional demands of special interests.” Cornyn went on to discuss his proposed compromise that would permit the prosecution of non-Indian offenders in tribal court. However, his proposal would require the imposition of the U.S. Constitution on tribal governments. It would also authorize non-Indians convicted in tribal court a direct right of appeal to the federal court of appeals.

Senator Coburn, in an attempt to garner support for his amendment, stated the following, “What we’ve done with this [legislation] is to trample on the bill of rights of every American who is not Native American. I am 100% certain that this will be thrown out by the first federal judge that hears it. … What this bill does is eliminate the bill of rights for U.S. citizens in tribal courts…. Most tribal courts don’t recognize the bill of rights.”

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairwoman, Senator Maria Cantwell, rebutted the constitutionality claims by noting that the bill provides the full range of protections for suspects of abuse. She added, “If you think you are rooting out crime in America, while letting a sieve happen in Indian Country, you are not rooting out crime. You are sending a signal to people that this is an easy place to go…. You are saying this is the place where you can escape the law. We are trying to close that gap. [T]his is not something that has been done with sleight of hand. This is something where a great deal of thought has gone into it by the Department of Justice…. Clearly, we … need to do something very important to make sure all women, including Native American women, no longer suffer from these statistics that are just unbearable in the United States of America.”

Senator Murkowski also made a strong defense regarding the need for the tribal provisions. She listed the staggering statistics of violence and sexual assault that Native women nationwide endure on a daily basis. Speaking to a New York Times Reporter, Senator Murkowski stated “I have heard too many of the horror stories, and I have heard the law enforcement folks come forward and say, we’ve got to do something because right now it’s so confused that if a sheriff’s office gets a 911 call, and they find out the woman is calling from a reservation, and they find out it’s her boyfriend and he’s not a member of the tribe, we’ve heard stories that they don’t even respond…. Basically you can get away with bloody murder.” [ Link to article attached below ]

After senate passage, U.S. Attorney General, Robert Holder released the following statement: “[T]he tribal provisions included in the VAWA reauthorization and originally proposed by the Department of Justice, will close a significant jurisdictional gap that has left too many Native American women, precisely because they are Native American, exposed to violence for far too long. The status quo is simply unacceptable and the Senate has today acted courageously on behalf of our society’s most vulnerable, who deserve not only equal justice but also our unquestionable resolve to protect them. As the House of Representatives now moves to consider reauthorizing this critical law, I urge lawmakers to come together, as they have historically, to pass an improved and strengthened VAWA that continues its 18 years of progress towards ending the scourge of violence against all victims in our society.”

The bill and the debate on VAWA Reauthorization moves to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it will be referred to the House Judiciary and Natural Resources Committees. In 2012, House Republican Leadership pushed back against the tribal jurisdiction provisions as well as several other proposals in the Senate bill. However, there is mounting public pressure to quickly pass the VAWA Reauthorization. The wide bipartisan margin of vote in the Senate will only serve to increase that pressure. Yesterday, a group of 23 Republican Members of Congress wrote Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor, urging them to pass a bipartisan VAWA bill that expands protections for all women, which indicates internal caucus pressure.

Oversight Hearing Scheduled on Indian Education

Oversight Hearing Scheduled on Indian Education

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies has schedule an oversight hearing on Indian Education. The hearing is schedule for February 27th at 10:00 AM in Rayburn House Office Building B-308.

The testimony will focus on Indian education with a focus on the needs of students attending schools in the Bureau of Indian Education system.

The following witnesses are scheduled to testify before the Committee:

• George A. Scott, Director Education, Workforce and Income Security Issues U.S. Government Accountability Office
• Dr. Heather Shotton, President National Indian Education Association
• Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior
• Brian Drapeaux, Acting Director Bureau of Indian Education, U.S. Department of the Interior
• Michael Black, Director Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior

More information can be found on the Committee website

President Obama to nominate Sally Jewell to lead Interior Department

President Obama to nominate Sally Jewell to lead Interior Department

President Obama is expected to announce today the nomination of Sally Jewell to be the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, which is a post being vacated by Ken Salazar in March. Jewell currently serves as Chief Executive of Recreational Equipment, Inc., known as REI, a Washington based company. REI is a successful outdoor-outfitting company. Prior to joining REI, Jewell worked in commercial banking and as an engineer for Mobil Oil.

    Sally Jewell Picked To Be Interior Secretary By Obama

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Wednesday will nominate business executive and former engineer Sally Jewell to lead the Interior Department, an administration official said.
Jewell is the president and chief executive officer at the outdoors company Recreational Equipment, Inc., known as REI, which sells clothing and gear for outdoor adventures with more than 100 stores across the country. Prior to joining REI in 2000, Jewell worked in commercial banking and as an engineer for Mobil Oil Corporation.

If confirmed, Jewell would replace current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who held the post throughout Obama’s first term. Salazar announced last month that he would step down in March.

Jewell is the first woman in Obama’s crop of second-term Cabinet nominees. The White House faced criticism that the new Cabinet lacked diversity after Obama tapped a string of white men for top posts, but Obama promised more diverse nominees were in the queue for other jobs.

Jewell’s confirmation would also put a prominent representative from the business community in the president’s Cabinet. REI is a $2 billion-a-year company and has been named by Fortune Magazine as one of the top 100 companies to work for.

Obama was to announce Jewell’s nomination during a ceremony in the White House State Dining Room Wednesday afternoon, according to the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to confirm Jewell’s nomination ahead of the president.

Under Salazar, the Interior Department pushed renewable power such as solar and wind and oversaw a moratorium on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The moratorium was lifted in October 2010, although offshore drilling operations did not begin for several more months.

The Interior Department manages millions of acres in national parks and forests, overseeing energy and mining operations on some of the government-owned land.