For Immediate Release: 
March 17, 2021
Contact Info: 
Margaret Mulkerrin 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke at a press conference this morning ahead of House passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021. Below is a transcript of his remarks.

“[Congresswoman Debbie Dingell], your words, like the principle sponsor of this legislation, the Chair of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, on the Judiciary Committee, and [who is] really the spark behind this bill a few years ago, this year, [Congresswoman] Shelia Jackson Lee, I will yield to her, but let me just say a few words as I’m about to speak on the Floor and you are as well.

“You saw the passion demonstrated by a victim of domestic violence [in Congresswoman Debbie Dingell]. Now whether or not the violence was delivered to her personally, or to her parent and she was in fear, as she said, [for] her mother’s life. This is a pandemic in America, it is a lethal pandemic in America, it is a psychological trauma in America.

“The House is about to pass a long-term reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which was previously blocked by Senate Republicans, sadly. It was then Senator Biden of course, who wrote this original VAWA in 1994. I was a cosponsor of that in 1994….

“President Biden is ready to sign this bill and I have hope the Senate will act on it quickly so he can do so. VAWA has always been bipartisan. We passed and reauthorized VAWA on a bipartisan basis in ‘94, 2000, 2005, and 2013.

“It is disappointing that after the House passed a bipartisan reauthorization last Congress, the Republican-led Senate refused to take action, even after it was clear that incidents of domestic violence were increasing during the pandemic. Now, when I say they refused to take action, actually, they didn't take up the bill and amend it and then send it over to us or ask for [a] conference. They just ignored it. They apparently took the position that violence against women is not important enough for us to take up and consider the bill. They didn’t have to take our bill, what they had to do was address the pandemic of violence against women in America – so disappointing.

“In my state of Maryland, court records indicate that there were 3,244 protective orders in place in April 2019. Women who were in danger, however, in April 2020, amid the lockdowns to protect against COVID-19, that number had dropped to 470. Now my immediate response as I read that and looked it up – it dropped to 470? It dropped to 470 because women were not able to make their complaints in the lockdown period. Not because they got less, in fact, they got worse.… It rose again to 4,116 in June, after the lockdown was lifted. This has been called a pandemic within a pandemic. I've said that a couple of times now. We need to enact the broader protections that are included in this bill to help victims of domestic violence.

“If we are serious about addressing this crisis, I expect today that we will see another bipartisan vote and I hope that the Senate will act without delay. I know Leader Schumer will bring it to the Floor. It will not languish unattended. As President Biden said the other day about reauthorizing VAWA: ‘This should not be a Democratic or Republican issue. It's a matter of justice and compassion.’ And I would add to that, awareness.

“I want to thank Representative Jackson Lee for leading this charge. And I want to thank Chairman Nadler and members of Judiciary Committee for their work… to ensure that more people are protected under this reauthorization. Now as I said, again, I'm pleased to yield to introduce a fighter for justice, for all of her life, and certainly all of her career in the Congress of the United States, on behalf of civil rights, human rights, and the rights of women and all other vulnerable peoples – Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.”