National Organization for Women ACTION Center ALERTS [reprinted by permission]
[originally dated] November 22, 2005
Take Action on the Violence Against Women Act
Congress went home last week and failed to finalize the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. It will not be easy to convene a conference committee and come to an agreement about what the final VAWA2005 should look like. But it is not impossible. Both the House and the Senate will return for a short time in December and the leadership must hear from us that we expect them to get VAWA's differences worked out and passed!
If you haven't done so already, please sign the VAWA petition urging Congressional leaders to pass VAWA NOW! Forward this appeal to your colleagues and coalition partners as well, because we will be delivering the final batch of petitions to Congress the week of December 5 and need as many signatures as possible. We currently have almost 10,000 signatures with names from every state. Good job!
Call the offices of the House and Senate leadership with this simple message: Add passing VAWA to your December agenda and get it passed before services are reduced and programs are eliminated. Women, children and families are relying on you.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn), 202-224-3135
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill), 202-225-0600
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), 202-224-5556
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal), 202-225-0100
Send an email to your Senators and Representative asking them to help expedite this process.
Although VAWA's authorization ran out September 30 along with the funding for all government activities and programs, Congress voted to continue funding at last year's levels through December 17th. But without passage of VAWA 2005, no funding stability or cost of living increases are guaranteed and any new programs in the bill will be unable to get off the ground.
On Tuesday afternoon, October 4, the Senate passed its version of VAWA 2005, S. 1197, by a unanimous consent agreement, meaning that all of the Senators had no objections (or had withdrawn their objections) to the bill. A less comprehensive version of VAWA 2005 passed the House of Representatives on September 28 as H.R. 3402, the Department of Justice's yearly authorizing and funding bill.
While the House version included reauthorization of crucial VAWA programs, it does not achieve all that is needed. At the last minute just before the vote, the Republican leadership dropped important provisions dealing with immigrants and women of color.
The Senate bill still includes many of these House-dropped provisions, but faced its own trimming as a key program was dropped that would have extended coverage for unemployment insurance to domestic violence survivors who lose their jobs as they hide or flee from violence.
Whenever there are differences between similar bills that are passed in the House and Senate a "conference committee" with representatives from both houses, must meet to work out the differences between the two bills and come up with one final bill before the President can sign it. Because the House bill is part of a larger Department of Justice bill, H.R. 3402, and the Senate bill, S. 1191, is free-standing, this makes holding a conference committee even harder.