February 25, 2013

Dear ____________:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2013 (S. 47). I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this issue.

S. 47 would reauthorize and expand a variety of grant programs aimed at countering domestic violence through 2018. While countering violent crimes is a cause that enjoys universal support, the debate over S. 47 has become contentious due to the inclusion of a variety of controversial new elements to the bill. The legislation would increase benefits available under VAWA to specifically include victims of stalking and “cyberstalking,” as well as same-sex couples, and illegal immigrants who are victims of any sort of violence.

In addition, much of the grant funding provided under VAWA does not directly benefit victims of domestic violence, but goes toward domestic violence research, as well as lobbying for specific state and local law enforcement policies, such as mandatory arrest laws when responding to domestic violence incidents. A variety of studies have shown that the enactment of mandatory arrest laws can actually aggravate further domestic violence. In states where such policies have been enacted, intimate partner homicides have been seen to increase by as much as 60 percent.

Finally, S. 47 expands provisions related to domestic violence on tribal lands, and expands tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Native Americans. Historically, tribal courts have had jurisdiction over members of their tribe, and moreover, defendants are not constitutionally entitled to the full protections of the Bill of Rights in tribal court.

I am against violence against women, children, men-anyone. Under our Constitution, states are given the responsibility for prosecution of those violent crimes. They don’t need Washington telling them how to provide services and prosecute criminals in these cases. Under the Constitution, states are responsible for enacting and enforcing criminal law. As written, S. 47 muddles the lines between federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement.

The Senate defeated a number of helpful amendments to S. 47, including one offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that would have more quickly resolved rape cases by reducing unnecessary duplications and overlap within Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) grant programs. The amendment would have required DOJ to consolidate some of the overlapping programs identified by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), and use at least $600 million of the funds saved to support reducing the backlog of rape kits. Doing so would help bring criminals to justice. Unfortunately, the amendment (S.Amdt 15) failed by a vote of 46-53. The Senate proceeded to pass S. 47 on Feb. 12, 2012, by a vote of 78-22. I voted against it. It now awaits consideration by the House of Representatives.

Once more, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance in the future. I look forward to hearing from you again.

Sincerely,

Rand Paul, MD
United States Senator