Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) speaking at CPAC.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)
House Republican leadership continues to take a "we'll do something about the Violence Against Women Act, but we're not saying what" approach nearly 10 days after the Senate passed an expanded reauthorization of the bill by a 78 to 22 margin. One big question is what will happen with a provision giving tribal courts authority to prosecute non-Native American men who abuse or assault Native American women on tribal lands. Now, a separate bill is being reintroduced that could provide a reasonable compromise—or could preserve the status quo in the name of compromise.

Such violence is widespread, and justice is often out of reach since, as a White House post on the subject explained, "tribes cannot prosecute a non-Indian, even if he lives on the reservation and is married to a tribal member. As a result, all too often, non-Indian men who batter their wives or girlfriends go unpunished." That's why the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act would allow tribal prosecution of non-Indians "only for domestic violence, dating violence, and violations of protection orders. Crimes between two strangers, or between two non-Indians, or committed by a person with no ties to the tribe, would not be covered." Due process protections are included in the bill, but Republicans object that the rights of the accused would be violated nonetheless.

Enter Darrell Issa. Issa has a compromise proposal that would permit tribal courts to prosecute in such cases, but give the accused the option to move their cases to federal court. The question is whether that would be done in a way that made the tribal courts' jurisdiction completely toothless.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), one of the leading proponents of the Senate VAWA bill, told HuffPost earlier this month that she wasn't sure if she could get behind Issa's compromise language if it were what passed in the House. But she called his approach "responsible" and noted that, at least in the last Congress, it had the backing of Native American tribes.

"Until I have the language in front of me, and I'm sure it provides protections, I'm not going to commit either way," Murray said. "But tribes have expressed to me that [Issa] is being fair and rational."

It's good to hear both that Democratic senators like Murray will hold out for real protections for Native American women and that there's a chance that Issa's bill is fair and rational (not words usually attached to him). But really, the Senate's Violence Against Women Act was good enough for 23 out of 45 Republican senators. John Boehner needs to just bring it for a vote and see what happens—there shouldn't be any reason to talk compromise if the original bill might be able to pass the House.

Please sign the petition urging House Republicans to protect all women by passing the Senate version of the expanded, bipartisan Violence Against Women Act.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 07:54 AM PST.

Also republished by Native American Netroots and Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism.

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