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Where do they stand? Texas lawmakers and the VAWA
By Kelley Chambers, firstname.lastname@example.org, @KelleyChambers7 on Twitter
Among the 22 Senators who voted against the Violence Against Women Act last month were Texas' John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Texas House District 3 Representative Sam Johnson (R-Plano) did not cast a vote when it was passed in the House on Feb. 28.
Cruz said he voted against the federal law on the grounds that such should be handled by individual states.
"Stopping and punishing violent criminals is primarily a state responsibility, and the federal government does not need to be dictating state criminal law," Cruz said in a statement.
Cornyn has previously voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and voted in favor of an alternative Republican bill that he said would have reauthorized VAWA while removing what he called an "unconstitutional provision." Cornyn also tried to offer a compromise amendment, but "Senate Democrats and tribal stakeholders refused to negotiate a constitutional fix," according to his office.
"There must be an opportunity given to individuals who are prosecuted in these tribal courts to appeal to a federal court if they are in fact convicted," Cornyn said on the Senate Floor on Feb. 11. "There is no right of removal to federal court in the underlying bill. The rights provided under the Indian Civil Rights Act are not constitutional rights; they do not incorporate the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, which would be applicable to any American citizen tried in a state or federal court. They are serious cases [and] they deserve to be prosecuted, but only consistently within the U.S. Constitution."
The act also includes Cornyn's Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting bill. The SAFER Act will audit and reduce the backlog of untested rape kits sitting in the possession of law enforcement agencies across the country which, according to experts, is as many as 400,000. The bill will provide funding for state and local governments to conduct audits of untested DNA evidence and create a national reporting system to help track and prioritize untested rape kits.
"For far too long, an unacceptable national backlog of untested rape kits has compounded the pain for too many victims of sexual assault," Cornyn said in a release. "I am pleased that Congress has passed this legislation that takes a significant step toward reducing that backlog and bringing swifter justice for millions of victims."
Bipartisan gridlock has been a constant part of American history, although most people today think back to the 60s, 70s and into the Reagan years when there seemed to be more cooperation across the aisles, not the "ratcheting up of partisan tension," said Calvin Jillson, a political science professor at SMU. As the Republican Party strives to win back the popular vote gain seats lost in the House and in the Senate, Jillson said voters can expect candidates on both sides of the issue to think more carefully about the way they tackle social issues regarding women.
"Republicans are wondering whether or not the positions they're taking on issues of gender and having their candidates talk stupidly about rape is killing them at the ballot box. And the Democrats are pushing them," Jillson said. "They put the new provisions [in the act] because they thought it was important, but also because it gets the Republicans' hackles up [too]."
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