Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, I have seen the good the law called the Violence Against Women Act has done in providing victim services in my State of Iowa. We all recognize the harm that flows from domestic violence. It is harmful to the victims as well as the families of victims.
I have supported reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act each time it has come up. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization on each of these occasions has been highly bipartisan. We have passed consensus bills and we have not played politics with reauthorizing the law; that is, until now. This time it seems to be different. I don't know why it should be. The majority turned this issue into a partisan issue.
In the Judiciary Committee, the majority gave no notice it would inject new matters into the Violence Against Women Act. When the committee held a hearing on this issue, these ideas were not discussed. Their need has not been demonstrated. We do not know exactly how they will work. It was clear committee Republicans would not be able to agree to this new added material. Of course, the majority refused during negotiations when we asked they be removed.
Republicans will be offering a substitute amendment to the Leahy bill. Probably 80 to 85 percent of the substitute we are offering is the same as the Leahy bill. This includes whole titles of the bill. We could have again reached a near consensus bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, but the majority intentionally decided not to change the bill. They didn't want it to pass with an overwhelming bipartisan majority.
Now the media has reported this was a deliberate strategy of the majority. A recent Politico article quoted a prominent Democratic Senator. The article [Page: S2763] said he ``wants to fast track the bill to the floor, let the GOP block it, then allow Democrats to accuse Republicans of waging a war against women.'' This is the cynical, partisan game-playing Americans are sick of. At every town meeting people say to me: When are you going to get together and stop the partisanship? This is especially the case on this bill.
Republicans aren't even blocking the bill. We have called for the bill to be brought up. Instead, the majority has taken 6 months to reauthorize this program that expired last October. That says something about the priorities of the other party.
For instance, last week, we wasted time on political votes. That seems to be the case in the Senate most of this year. The Senate can pass a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act by an overwhelming margin, but it seems as though the other party doesn't want that to happen. When they say unfavorable things about Republicans and women, they aren't being forthright. A few weeks ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a fundraising e-mail. The e-mail stated, in part: Now, there are news reports that Republicans in Congress will oppose re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act. Enough is enough! The Republican War on Women must stop NOW ..... Will you chip in $3 by midnight tonight to hold Republicans accountable for their War on Women? The majority had a decision between raising money for campaigns or trying to get the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill that would actually help these victims. I say to my colleagues, there is no war on women except the political one. It is a figment of the imagination of Democratic strategists who don't want to remember health care reform, unemployment or high gas prices. Instead of talking about those issues--particularly high gas prices--they would rather make up a war against women. All evidence points to the other side being more interested in raising money.
The media has also reported the bill is coming out now because the Democrats' desire to gin up a Republican so-called war on women was derailed last week, I suppose by other issues. It should be clear at the outset Republicans are not blocking, have not blocked, and never threatened to block the Senate's consideration of this bill. The Judiciary Committee only reported the bill to the Senate 2 months ago. It was March before the committee filed its usual committee report to the entire Senate.
Democrats immediately came to the floor and urged the bill to come up right now. It was up to the majority leader to decide when the bill should be debated. He finally decided--not right after the bill was reported out of committee or not right after the committee report was filed--to do it now. Why not back then? As long as there is a fair process for offering amendments, including our alternative bill and pointing out the flaws in the majority's bill, this should be a relatively short process. As the previous speaker said, I hope we can get it done this very day.
There are several other important points I wish to establish. First, I hope a consensus version of the Violence Against Women Act will be reauthorized. If a consensus bill doesn't pass, no rights of women or anyone else will be affected if the bill does not pass because, contrary to the statements made, there would be no cutbacks of services.
The Violence Against Women Act--the bill before us--is an authorization bill only, not an appropriations bill. This bill does not allow the expenditure of one dime because that result occurs through the appropriations process. Appropriators can and will fund the Violence Against Women Act programs regardless of whether this bill is reauthorized. This is exactly what happened over the past year. We think new issues have arisen since the last Violence Against Women Act reauthorization. These issues should be addressed in a consensus reauthorization. That can happen. We should give guidance to the appropriators. That is what authorization committees, such as in this case, the Judiciary Committee, is all about.
I support the appropriators continuing to fund the Violence Against Women Act while we are trying to put together a consensus bill. The Violence Against Women Act is being funded despite the expiration of its previous authorization. No existing rights of anyone are affected if the Violence Against Women Act is not reauthorized. No existing rights of anyone are affected if we pass a consensus bill rather than this partisan bill--I should say the majority's bill, not the partisan bill.
Second, the majority controls how bills move in the Senate. As I said, the current Violence Against Women Act reauthorization expired 6 months ago. If reauthorization was so important, I think the majority party could have moved to reauthorize this bill months ago. They didn't move a bill because no one's substantive rights or funding are at stake. This is true, even though the prior reauthorization has expired and a new reauthorization bill has not yet passed.
Third, nothing like the majority's bill, where it does not reflect consensus, will become law. It is a political exercise. The other body, meaning the House of Representatives, doesn't seem as though it is going to pass it the way the majority party here wants it to pass. If we want to pass a consensus violence against women reauthorization bill, we ought to start with the alternative Senator Hutchison and I are going to present to the Senate.
Fourth, the majority's bill, as reported out of committee, was and is fiscally irresponsible. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the majority's bill would have added more than $100 million in new direct spending. That will increase the deficit by that same amount. The reason is the immigration provisions that we said previously were nonstarters. These were some of the provisions the majority refused to take out. Those provisions are bad immigration policy. Nonetheless, I am glad the majority has now found an offset for this spending.
The Republican alternative does more to protect the rights of victims of domestic violence and sex crimes than does, in fact, the majority bill. There are many ways in which this substitute does that. Under the substitute amendment, more money goes to victims and less to bureaucrats. It requires that 10 percent of the grantees be audited every year. This is to ensure taxpayer funds are actually being used for the purpose of the legislation--to combat domestic violence.
This is a very important point. The Justice Department inspector general conducted a review of 22 grantees under this law between 1998 and 2010. Of these 22 audits, 21 were found to have some form of violation of grant requirements. The violations range from unauthorized and unallowable expenditures to sloppy recordkeeping and failure to report in a timely manner. When this happens, the money is not getting to the victims and the taxpayers' money is being wasted.
Let me give some examples. In 2010, one grantee was found by the inspector general to have questionable costs for 93 percent of the nearly $900,000 they received from the Justice Department. A 2009 audit found that nearly $500,000 of a $680,000 grant was questionable.
The fiscal irregularities continue. An inspector general audit from just this year found that this law's grant recipients in the Virgin Islands engaged in almost $850,000 in questionable spending. Also, a grant to an Indian tribe in Idaho found about $250,000 in improperly spent funds. This included--can my colleagues believe it--$171,000 in salary for an unapproved position.
In Michigan this year, a woman, at a VAWA grant recipient facility, used grant funds to purchase goods and services for personal use.
We should make sure then that Violence Against Women Act money goes to victims and not to waste such as this. That hasn't been the case, obviously, under the current situation. So our Republican substitute deals with this spending problem.
The substitute also prevents grantees from using taxpayer funds to lobby for more taxpayer funds.
That will ensure that more money is available for victims' services. Money that goes to grantees and is squandered helps no woman or other victims.
In addition, the Republican alternative limits the amount of Violence Against Women Act funds that can go to administrative fees and salaries to 7.5 percent. That means money that now is over the 7.5-percent suggested [Page: S2764] limit is going to bureaucrats and not to victims. Of course, the underlying bill, the Leahy bill, contains no such limit. If you want the money to go to victims and not bureaucrats, those overhead expenses should be capped at this 7.5-percent level.
The Republican substitute amendment requires that 30 percent of the STOP grants and grants for arrest policies and protective orders are targeted to sexual assault. The Leahy-Crapo bill sets aside only 20 percent instead of that 30 percent to fight sexual assault.
The substitute Senator Hutchison and I offer--hopefully this afternoon--requires that training materials be approved by an outside accredited organization. This ensures that those who address domestic violence help victims based on knowledge and not ideology. This will result in more effective assistance to victims. The Leahy-Crapo bill contains no such requirement.
The Hutchison-Grassley substitute protects due process rights that the majority bill threatens. I will give you an instance. The majority bill said that college campuses must provide for ``prompt and equitable investigation and resolution'' of charges of violence or stalking. This would have codified a proposed rule of the Department of Education that would have required imposition of a civil standard or preponderance of the evidence for what is essentially a criminal charge, one that, if proved, rightly should harm reputation. But if established on a barely ``more probable than not'' standard, reputations can be ruined unfairly and very quickly. The substitute eliminates this provision.
The majority has changed their own bill's language. I thank them for that. I take that as an implicit recognition of the injustice of the original language.
The substitute also eliminates a provision that allowed the victim who could not prove such a charge to appeal if she lost, creating double jeopardy.
The majority bill also would give Indian tribal courts the ability to issue protection orders and full civil jurisdiction over non-Indians based on actions allegedly taking place in Indian country.
Noting that the due process clause requires that courts exercise jurisdiction over only those persons who have ``minimum contacts'' with the forum, the Congressional Research Service has raised constitutional questions about this provision. The administration and its supporters in this body pursue their policy agendas headlong without bothering to consider the Constitution. The substitute contains provisions that would benefit tribal women and would not run afoul of the Constitution.
We have heard a lot of talk about how important the rape kit provisions in the Judiciary Committee bill are. I strongly support funds to reduce the backlog of testing rape kits. But that bill provides that only 40 percent of the rape kit money actually be used to reduce the backlog. The substitute requires that 70 percent of the funding would go for that purpose and get rid of the backlog sooner.
It requires that 1 percent of the Debbie Smith Act funds be used to create a national database to track the rape kit backlog. It also mandates that 7 percent of the existing Debbie Smith Act funds be used to pay for State and local audits of the backlog.
Debbie Smith herself has endorsed these provisions. The majority bill has no such provisions. Making sure that money that is claimed to reduce the rape kit backlog actually does so is provictim. True reform in the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization should further that goal.
Combating violence against women also means tougher penalties for those who commit these terrible crimes. The Hutchison-Grassley substitute creates a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for Federal convictions for forcible rape. The majority bill establishes a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence. That provision is only in there because Republicans offered it and we won that point in our committee.
Child pornography is an actual record of a crime scene of violence against women. Our alternative establishes a 1-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of child pornography where the victim depicted is under 12 years of age.
I believe the mandatory minimum for this crime should be higher. In light of the lenient sentences many Federal judges hand out, there should be a mandatory minimum sentence for all child pornography possession convictions. But the substitute is at least a start. This is especially true because the majority bill takes no action against child pornography.
The alternative also imposes a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for the crime of aggravated sexual assault. This crime involves sexual assault through the use of drugs or by otherwise rendering the victim unconscious. The Leahy bill does nothing about aggravated sexual assault. The status quo appears to be fine for the people who are going to vote for the underlying bill if the Hutchison-Grassley amendment is not adopted.
Instead, the Hutchison-Grassley amendment establishes a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for the crime of interstate domestic violence that results in the death of the victim.
It increases from 20 to 25 years the statutory maximum sentence for a crime where it results in life-threatening bodily injury to, or the permanent disfigurement of, the victim.
It increases from 10 to 15 years the statutory maximum sentence for this crime when serious bodily injury to the victim results.
The Leahy bill contains none of these important protections for domestic violence victims.
The substitute grants administrative subpoena power to the U.S. Marshals Service to help them discharge their duty of tracking and apprehending unregistered sex offenders. The Leahy bill does nothing to help locate and apprehend unregistered sex offenders.
And the substitute cracks down on abuse in the award of U visas for illegal aliens and the fraud in the Violence Against Women Act self-petitioning process. The majority bill does not include any reforms of these benefits, despite actual evidence of fraud in the program.
One of the Senators who recently came to the floor complained that there had never been controversy in reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. But in the past there were no deliberate efforts to create partisan divisions. We always proceeded in the past in a consensus fashion.
Domestic violence is an important issue, serious problem. We all recognize that. In the past, we put victims ahead of politics in addressing it. When the other side says this should not be about politics and partisanship, why, heavens, we obviously agree. It is the majority that has now decided they want to score political points above assisting victims. They want to portray a phony war on women because this is an election year. They are raising campaign money by trying to exploit this issue, and I demonstrated that in one of the e-mails that came to our attention.
There could have been a consensus bill before us today, as in the past. There is controversy now because that is what the majority seems to want. We look forward to a fair debate on this bill and the chance to offer and vote on our substitute amendment. That amendment contains much that is in agreement with the Leahy bill. The substitute also is much closer to what can actually be enacted into law to protect victims of domestic violence.
I yield the floor.