Noem opposes listing Native women in anti-violence billCongresswoman says all victims would be covered under the House version of the Violence Against Women Act and different groups don't need to be singled out.
By: Denise Ross, The Daily Republic
Naming American Indian women and other groups as victims covered by the federal Violence Against Women Act would be a mistake, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., told reporters Thursday.
Noem said Democrats included “politically polarizing language” in a Senate version of the bill. Many Republicans are opposing listing immigrants, gays and lesbians and Indian women victimized by non-natives on a reservation as groups explicitly protected against domestic violence, and a House version of the bill promoted by Noem isn’t expected to include that language.
“Standing up against violence is something we can all agree on. Unfortunately, some in Congress have attempted to politicize this important piece of legislation by adding unnecessary polarizing language,” Noem said. “We can have those debates, and it should be not be a part of this important legislation to protect women.”
Noem opened a conference call with reporters by talking about Congress’ efforts to renew the anti-domestic violence legislation. She complained about “politically polarizing” language included by Senate Democrats, but when asked to elaborate, she did not describe the language in specific terms and did not name the groups that she opposes including in the legislation.
Instead, she spoke in broader terms about how the bill would cover all victims of domestic violence.
“Our bill covers all of those people. Everyone is eligible. A victim is a victim,” Noem said. “We could write down every single name of every woman or man in the country. We don’t need to. The bill already provides protection to every single victim.”
After the call, Noem spokeswoman Andrea McCarthy said the congresswoman supports continuing grant funding that goes to tribes under the Violence Against Women Act. But, McCarthy said, Noem believes the debate over a substantial change in the way law enforcement officials handle jurisdictional issues should be a separate debate.
“What’s most important is making these programs available for those that need them,” McCarthy said. “There’s people who are suffering out there and rely on the programs this legislation funds.”
National media outlets have reported that Republicans are troubled by what they see as constitutional problems with language seeking to make it easier to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes on a reservation.
Historically, jurisdicational issues have confounded law enforcement both when Indian suspects seek refuge on reservations and when non-Indian suspects leave a reservation, as the tribal lands are considered sovereign and have their own criminal justice systems.
After he visited the Pine Ridge Reservation last summer, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said preventing violence against Indian women is a priority for him and the Obama administration. Holder called the high rate of violence suffered by Indian women “shocking and unacceptable” and vowed to remedy a legal patchwork that prevents prosecution in many cases.
Noem joined other House Republican women at a press conference Wednesday to promote the House version of the bill, which was still being written late Thursday. The law originated during the Clinton administration and has been renewed multiple times with broad bipartisan support.
Noem said the House version of the bill would require more money be spent directly on victims rather than bureaucratic expenses. And it would provide funding to process hundreds of thousands of unexamined rape kits.
“There is an estimated 180,000 to 400,000 rape kits that have not been processed. That is too many women wondering who their attackers have been and also too many rapists who are potentially walking free,” Noem said during the Wednesday press conference.
When asked whether she would consider compromising over the two versions of the bill in order to pass the legislation, Noem said she isn’t interested.
“Our bill, the House bill, as it stands today, is the reauthorization of the bill as it stands, but with reforms to make sure there is less fraud and abuse,” Noem said. “The House version carries forward the integrity of the bill.”