Why 2 Congresswomen Don't Want These Republicans To Be President Is Critical

Monday marked the third anniversary of the 2013 re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). First passed in 1994, VAWA has funded a myriad of programs to educate the public about domestic violence, prosecute abusers, and better train members of the judicial system in domestic violence law. It has also funded support systems for victims of abuse, including women's shelters and a national domestic violence hotline. Yet, two Republican presidential candidates — Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — opposed VAWA. And on Monday, Reps. Louise Slaughter and Kathy Castor called out the senators for their refusal to support legislation that has contributed to a 67 percent decrease in cases of domestic violence since its enactment.

Slaughter (D-New York), who co-authored the original VAWA, and Castor (D-Florida) participated in a special press call. Castor spoke out against Rubio, the senator who is currently campaigning in their home state of Florida in hopes of ramping up support for his Republican nomination bid. In 2013, Cruz and Rubio were among six other Republican senators who voted to block the re-authorization of the VAWA. Castor and Slaughter called on the country to not only commemorate the anniversary of VAWA's re-authorization, but to make note of the fact that two of the top three candidates for the Republican presidential nomination did not support it.

"The 2013 re-authorization was meant not only to renew, but to update the law, to expand on the law," Castor said. She explained that the 2013 version included protections for previously unprotected groups of women, including those in the LGBT, undocumented immigrant, and Native American communities. "Immigrant women, especially those without legal status, have really had no recourse. Because of their status, they were caught between abusive partners and deportation. The 2013 re-authorization protected them from prosecution and deportation, and allows for the prosecution of abusers."

Other important additions include a non-discrimination clause and a section on college campus sexual assault. In previous versions of the VAWA, there were no protections for members of the LGBT community. Castor noted that, although LGBT individuals suffer the same rate of domestic violence as other people, they were sometimes denied access to shelters and resources. The updated VAWA included a non-discrimination clause to expand protections to the LGBT community. It also introduced new criteria for identifying, preventing, and handling cases of sexual assault and stalking on college campuses.

In an official statement concerning his opposition to the re-authorization, Rubio expressed support for re-authorizing the former version of VAWA, but was not on board with some of the 2013 additions:

[T]his bill would mandate the diversion of a portion of funding from domestic violence programs to sexual assault programs, although there's no evidence to suggest this shift will result in a greater number of convictions. These funding decisions should be left up to the state-based coalitions that understand local needs best ... Additionally, I have concerns regarding the conferring of criminal jurisdiction to some Indian tribal governments over all persons in Indian country, including non-Indians.

A spokeswoman for Cruz commented on his opposition to the re-authorization to ThinkProgress:

For many years, Sen. Cruz has worked in law enforcement, helping lead the fight to ensure that violent criminals — and especially sexual predators who target women and children — should face the very strictest punishment. However, stopping and punishing violent criminals is primarily a state responsibility, and the federal government does not need to be dictating state criminal law.

Slaughter said during the press call that Cruz's and Rubio's opposition to the VAWA "should be disqualifying" when considering their presidential qualifications. "Sen. Cruz and Sen. Rubio are very prominent in the debate on the Republican side of the presidential race," Slaughter said. "No one on that side has discussed violence against women. We should ask ... Why should you be president if you will not protect the physical health of your constituents?"

Castor echoed Slaughter's sentiments, noting that re-authorization will be on the table again in 2018. "The families I represent in Florida will not be very well-served if Sen. Rubio or Sen. Cruz is in the Oval Office," she said. "We need a president who will fight for safer families and safer communities. The entire Republican field demonstrates that they will not do that."