Senate rejects Coburn-amendment to VAWA reducing 'duplicative' programs

Coburn said his amendment would save at least $600 million that could then be used to more quickly resolve rape cases by addressing the backlog of rape kit testing. But Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urged his colleagues to oppose the amendment.

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“This amendment would gut key programs that help women that are victims of rape and domestic violence,” Leahy said ahead of the vote Tuesday.

Right before that amendment failed, the Senate approved Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) amendment that would clarify that in Alaska, Native American tribal jurisdiction would be for the Metla Katla tribe, which is the only tribe with land in the state despite other tribes residing in the state. That measure passed by voice-vote.

The Senate will resume work on the VAWA reauthorization after the weekly caucus luncheons. Coburn has offered one more amendment, which will get a vote shortly after 2:15 p.m. Final passage is expected immediately after that final amendment vote.

Coburn’s other amendment would encourage states to test convicted rapists for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) so that victims know if they need to seek treatment. If states refused to make such an adjustment to their laws, they would receive 20 percent less in VAWA grants. The amendment would also help provide the necessary treatment to the victims if they were at risk of infection.

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 family income, so the grants can provide housing assistance and cellphones for victims. Under this reauthorization bill, these programs would continue for another five years.