(S. 1925) On an amendment to strip an anti-domestic violence bill of provisions designed to protect American Indians, immigrants, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community
This vote was on an amendment that would have stripped an anti-domestic violence bill of provisions designed to protect American Indians, immigrants, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) offered the amendment during consideration of legislation renewing the Violence Against Women Act, which provides grants and other assistance to combat domestic and sexual violence. Sen. Hutchison’s amendment would have added provisions requiring minimum 5-year sentences for rapists who use drugs to incapacitate their victims, as well as new subpoena power that would help U.S. marshals locate sexual offenders more quickly. More controversially, the amendment would have eliminated provisions of the underlying bill that would provide protection specifically for members of the LGBT community. It would have eliminated a provision to allow tribal governments to prosecute non-Indians who commit sexual assault on a reservation. It also would have stripped the bill of a provision increasing availability of so-called “U” visas for undocumented immigrants who have been victimized.
Supporters of Sen. Hutchison’s amendment argued that the provision allowing tribal governments to prosecute non-Indians was unconstitutional, and that specific protections for the LGBT community were unnecessary. They also argued that to prevent abuse, the expansion of U visas for immigrant victims should have been accompanied by tighter restrictions on the individuals eligible for them.
“There is no requirement (in the underlying bill) that an investigation be commenced as a result of the alien reporting the crime. There is no time period within which an alien has to report the crime,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) said. “The crime could have occurred years before it is reported and there could be no way to identify the perpetrator. The alien seeking the U visa could even have a criminal record of their own. Our substitute (amendment) includes common sense, best practices to ensure that U visas are truly used as a tool to fight crime.”
Opponents of Sen. Hutchison’s amendment argued that it would roll back protections in the underlying bill – known as the “Leahy-Crapo” bill because its chief sponsors were Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) – that would help protect millions of Americans from violence.
“The improvements we have made in the bipartisan Leahy-Crapo bill are gone from the Republican proposal,” Sen. Leahy said. “There is only one real Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, and this is not it. It undermines core principles. It abandons some of the most vulnerable victims. It strips key provisions that are critically necessary to protect all victims, including battered immigrants, Native women, and victims of same-sex relationships. I hope my colleagues will strongly and roundly defeat this alternative.”
Sen. Hutchison’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 37-62. Voting “yea” were 37 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 53 Democrats and 9 Republicans. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to strip the anti-domestic violence bill of provisions designed to protect American Indians, immigrants, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.