Republicans Vote Against Strengthening Enforcement For Sexual Assault on Native American Women

Robin Marty

A bill to help law enforcement investigate sexual assaults and other crimes on Native American land is passed despite the objections of many Republicans.

When it comes to protecting people, the Republican Party has built its reputation on the idea that it is strong on defense and prosecution.  That makes it even more puzzling to learn the Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and 91 other Republicans voted against a bill that would make it easier to investigate crimes on tribal lands, especially those that involve sexual assault.

From the Minnesota Independent:

A bill aimed at helping Native American law enforcement investigate rape and other crimes by non-Indians on tribal lands passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last week with overwhelming bipartisan support. Only one Minnesotan — Republican Michele Bachmann — voted against it.

The Tribal Law and Order Act passed last Wednesday as an amendment to HR 725 on a 326-92 vote, with votes from Minnesota Republicans Erik Paulsen and John Kline and Democrats Keith Ellison, James Oberstar, Betty McCollum, Collin Peterson and Tim Walz. It gives tribal police more authority in seeking prosecution of non-Natives who commit crimes on American Indian lands.

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So why did Rep. Bachmann vote against a bill that would help protect women and other victims of crime?  No one seems to be able to get an answer.

Bachmann’s communications director, Dave Dziock, didn’t return the Minnesota Independent’s request for comment on the Sixth District Republican’s no-vote.

Republicans elsewhere, however, have questioned the bill’s price tag, which some have estimated at $1.1 billion.

That’s a “myth,” Deer says. “There’s been some misunderstanding that it was going to be a high-dollar bill,” she told the Independent, noting that “there’s no mandatory spending” in the bill.

Deer wouldn’t speculate on why Bachmann opposes this important boost for Indian women, which President Obama is expected to sign into law soon, but she expressed some surprise.

“I’m not sure why she didn’t. It’s very much about prosecution. It’s a very law-and-order bill.”

According to Amnesty International, Native American women suffer sexual attacks at an alarmingly high rate.

Amnesty International USA addressed the issue in its 2007 report, Maze of Injustice: the Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA.

The report exposed the disproportionately high levels of rape and sexual violence that Native American and Alaska Native women suffer – 2.5 times higher than for non-native women in the United States.

78 Republicans and all Democrats voted for the bill, which will be signed into law on Thursday, July 29th.

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