It’s beginning to look almost certain that Congressman Goodlatte, as chair of the House Judiciary Committee in one of the final acts of his 26 years in Congress, will succeed in blocking Congressional approval of a bill to protect Native American women from violence.
The bill, known as Savanna’s Act, passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
The Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald reports:
The last word in the struggle over the bill was from U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s office late Wednesday when Goodlatte sent over changes he wanted in the bill.
The bill would improve tribal access to federal databases for tracking missing tribal persons, require the Department of Justice to consult with tribes while developing guidelines, mandate reporting statistics regarding missing and murdered Native Americans to Congress, and streamline coordination between tribes and law enforcement agencies with training and technical assistance in putting the guidelines in force.
Goodlatte said he essentially wanted to strike out the law enforcement guidelines. One provision he wanted removed would essentially strike out any accountability for law enforcement to implement guidelines in the bill. Another would take out the provision for preference for law enforcement grant applicants that have implemented the guidelines.
These were incentives for law enforcement on the federal, state, local and tribal level to put an extra effort into addressing the crisis, said Heiktamp’s office.
Without those provisions, her office said a key part of the bill would be gutted and was a nonstarter in any negotiations.
According to Heitkamp, 84 percent of Native American women experience violence in their lifetime, but she said few outside of Indian Country are aware of this epidemic. Native American women face a murder rate 10 times higher than the national average.
If the bill isn’t approved this year, new legislation would need to be introduced and go through what could be a long legislative process again next year. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who heads the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said he would keep working on the bill and has strongly supported efforts to get it passed.
Congresswoman Norma Torres referred to Goodlatte on the floor of the House of Representatives: “One member of this body has decided to prevent us from passing Savanna’s Act. And the rest have capitulated. One member standing in the way of finally doing the right thing for Native women. American women. Women who are victims of crime. Shameful.”
Despite protests from hundreds of constituents and others, Goodlatte has not offered any public explanation for why he is blocking Savanna’s Act.
On Friday some of Goodlatte’s constituents rallied outside his office in Staunton to demand a response. But so far nothing.
Shameful indeed, Congressman Goodlatte.