Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday called on Congress to extend the Violence Against Women Act.
In an op-ed published by McClatchy Newspapers, Biden lamented that an extension of the law, which in the past enjoyed broad bipartisan support, had seemingly fallen victim to partisan gridlock in Congress.
Biden, who during his time as a senator was one of the original authors of the 1994 act, said that in the past there had always been certain issues - protecting victims of domestic violence among them - that had always risen above the normal course of politics.
"These days, unfortunately, even that precept is being challenged," he wrote.
Biden said that the original law, which provides additional tools and resources for law enforcement and victims in domestic violence cases, has helped the nation make a great deal of progress in reducing overall domestic violence rates.
"But make no mistake, this violence still happens every day," Biden said. "We need to continue these programs and we need to add improvements."
He added, "To do so, Congress must make the protections in the Violence Against Women Act available to every person in this country who may ever need them. This simply cannot be up for debate in a civilized society like ours."
However, it is the prospect of some of the expansions that caused House Republicans to balk, objecting to extending the protections of the law to same-sex couples and provisions that would have allowed illegal immigrants who were victims of domestic abuse to claim temporary visas.
"Republicans [in the House] passed a much weaker version of the bill," Biden wrote. "While the House bill contains some of the important provisions of the Senate bill, it lacks key improvements - like protecting more victims and requiring dating violence and sexual assault prevention programs on campus - and, in some cases, it actually rolls back current protections for victims of domestic violence."
Support for extending the bill, Biden said, runs "broad and deep" uniting many of the stakeholders in the issue, from law enforcement and prosecutors to victims' advocates across both parties.
"This should be easy - and beyond politics," Biden said. "Instead, the clock is now running out for the more than 23,000 women who call our national domestic abuse hotline every month and for all women who may one day be the victims of violence."
He added, "On this issue of basic decency, where there remains so much agreement between us, Republicans and Democrats ought to leave politics at the water's edge. Because women everywhere are counting on us, and they can't wait any longer."
by RTT Staff Writer
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