By Ramsey Cox
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Grassley’s amendment “guts the core provisions” of the bipartisan bill.
The Senate-version of VAWA extends protections for victims of domestic violence to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victims, Native Americans and immigrants.
Democrats, including President Obama, said they preferred the Senate bill because it would give tribal authorities jurisdiction over non-Indians in some domestic violence cases on tribal land, but Republicans say that issue has raised questions about possible constitutional rights violations of U.S. citizens.
“That provision raises serious constitutional questions,” Grassley said.
Grassley expressed concern that U.S. citizens living or working on tribal land would be subject to tribal courts if accused of domestic violence or rape and would have no way to appeal the tribal court decisions in the federal court system. He also said his amendment would have ensured that more money went to "victims and not bureaucrats" by requiring strict oversight into how the money is spent.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) voted against Grassley's amendment.
The Senate bill also prohibits discrimination against LGBT citizens in grant programs to help victims, and would let some illegal immigrants stay in the country to receive help if they are victims of domestic violence or rape.
Both the House and Senate passed their own versions during the 112th Congress, but neither chamber took up the other's version. The House version didn't include provisions extending protections for victims of domestic violence to Native Americans, LGBT victims and immigrants.
VAWA provides grants to victims of domestic violence in order to encourage victims to leave their abusive situations. Some feel they can’t get away from their abusers because they might not have another form of income, so the grants can provide housing assistance and cellphones for victims. Under this reauthorization bill, these programs would continue for another five years.