Supporters of this provision argue that the problem is pressing – about 3 in 5 native American women are subject to abuse during their lifetime – and that authorities often struggle to prosecute such cases under existing laws and resources. In essence, allowing tribal courts to hear such charges patches a gap, the bill’s advocates say, that allows abuse to go unpunished if it occurs on an Indian reservation.
But conservatives see the legislation as constitutionally problematic because it would, in their eyes, deprive non-native American defendants of rights to due process and trial by a jury of their peers.
In 2012, both chambers of Congress passed VAWA reauthorization bills. The Senate passed the measure, 68 to 31, while the House approved the bill in a narrower, more partisan vote of 222 to 205. The bill was left unenacted after the House cited procedural problems and stalled moving the measure into a committee that would iron out differences between the two bills.
The prospects for VAWA in the House this year are also improved by the involvement of House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia. Mr. Cantor has said in recent days that he is having “daily meetings” on the issue with the office of Vice President Joe Biden and House minority whip Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland and hopes to take up VAWA in an “expeditious manner.”