Violence against women comes in many forms, including rapes, beatings and extreme emotional abuse that runs the gamut of threats, stalking and other behaviors that do not have a place in civilized society.
Democrats and Republicans agree about the seriousness of these crimes. But they disagree over how to go about reauthorizing a vital federal law that is designed to help. Missouri’s two senators are typical.
Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill is strongly on board with her party’s position: Reauthorize the law, complete with the funding it provides and with new legal provisions intended to address the historically higher incidence of violence against women on Indian reservations.
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt voted against the measure, faulting a provision that would give tribal courts power over non-Native Americans accused of assaults on reservations. The provision, he says, poses big problems for tribal relationships.
Sen. Blunt argues: “Let’s have a vote on really extending the Violence Against Women Act, instead of a vote about Indian treaty rights and all sorts of other things that were put into that act knowing that it would just be another political vote. Let’s get over the politics and get down to serious governing.”
This standoff is the kind of development that has turned off so many citizens who want to believe government still has a role in lifting up society.
The obvious solution is for Sen. McCaskill and others to accept the limitations of what is possible under divided government. The two initiatives — helping women and tackling the thorny problem of jurisdiction on tribal lands — would best be served if broken into two separate pieces of legislation.
At last count, the law protecting women provided $120,000 a year to the St. Joseph YWCA for programs such as legal assistance, transitional housing, law enforcement training and domestic violence hotlines. This assistance is too important to be held up further by political gridlock.