Indian affairs law and lobby officials nationwide are mobilizing at the news that the House Republican leadership may soon consider an up or down vote on S.47, the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that includes provisions that would allow tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against Indian women and families on Indian lands.
Before that can happen, the House is scheduled on February 27 to consider a substitute bill that does not include the tribal provisions. If the substitute fails, the Rules Committee has offered a rule that would allow for a vote on the full Senate bill, which garnered widespread bipartisan support in the higher chamber on February 12.
Tribal interests widely want the House to vote down the substitute, pass the rule that allows for consideration of the Senate bill, then pass the full Senate version—something they have been advocating since last year and last Congress when the Senate took similar affirmative action, but House movement on the tribal provisions stalled.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of Rules Committee, signaled to fellow members how he would vote, saying earlier in the week that he will vote “no” on the substitute and “yes” on Senate version. Tribal lawyers and lobbyists have been contacting members of Congress to explain the tribal provisions in an attempt to get them to vote that way as well.
Cole, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, recently offered a Republican bill with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) that includes strong tribal provisions. He planned to offer that bill as an amendment to the House substitute, but that plan may not be necessary given the current agenda in the House.
If a vote on S.47 happens in the House, it is likely to occur on February 28, according to tribal observers.