2012-05-24 / Local & State

Ramsburg Urges Congress To Renegotiate VAWA

Says Shuster’s playing politics with Act
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

Karen Ramsburg, who is challenging five-term Congressmen Bill Shuster in November, has called on Congress to set aside partisan bickering and renegotiate the Violence Against Women Act.

The House passed a Republican sponsored bill to reauthorize the 1994 Act last Wednesday, 225- 205. Critics say the bill weakens critical protections for the most vulnerable people in society, including immigrants, Native Americans and gays. President Obama has threatened to veto it. Twenty-three House Republicans – including Pennsylvanian Republicans Patrick Meehan and Todd Platts – defected to vote against the bill, while six Democrats joined the Republican majority in support.

“Protecting women against violence in their homes and communities is a no-brainer,” Ramsburg told supporters at a forum in Mercersburg on Monday. “At least one in four women – and one in seven men – have experienced serious domestic violence. It’s a national crisis everyone agrees requires a national solution.”

Ramsburg said both parties had chosen to exploit the previously uncontroversial legislation to accrue political weaponry for the upcoming elections. The Republicans have sought to inflame passions by falsely linking the Act to illegal immigration and gay marriage, Ramsburg said, while some Democrats seemed to welcome the opportunity to smear Republicans for waging a “war on women.”

“Congress has abandoned its dignity and turned the chamber into an ugly free-for-all, where considered compromise in the interest of the country is no longer an option,” said Ramsburg. “The existing Act was reauthorized by President George W. Bush in 2005 after Congress voted 405-5 in favor of it. Now, Bill Shuster has joined 224 congressmen in declaring: ‘politics is more important than women’s safety.’”

The House bill, put forth by Republicans, stripped the Act of provisions added by the Senate in April. These offered more explicit protection for lesbian, gay and transgender people, and gave legal authority to American Indian tribes to prosecute domestic violence committed on tribal lands. The Senate bill enjoyed bipartisan support, passing 68-31 in April with every Republican woman senator voting in favor.

The House bill also weakens provisions in the Act that have been in place since 1994, Ramsburg said. The bill would impose heavy new restrictions on prosecutors from sponsoring “U” visas, which allow immigrant victims to stay in the country while their cases are being tried.

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