U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, speaks on the House floor Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse said he could not support an anti-

domestic violence bill because of what he considered infringements on constitutional rights by Democrats.

Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, joined all but 29 Republicans in voting against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act on Wednesday, the second time in as many years he has done so. Newhouse, who has co-sponsored legislation addressing missing and murdered indigenous women, said he supports bipartisan approaches to domestic violence.

“Far-left Democrats once again put politics over people by refusing to work with Republicans and inserting new provisions that raised serious constitutional due process concerns,” Newhouse said in an emailed statement from his office Friday afternoon. “I could not support this revised, partisan version of VAWA.”

His concerns focused on allowing tribal courts to try non-tribal-citizens on domestic violence charges, as well as requiring faith-based shelters and crisis centers to accept all people, regardless of the organization’s beliefs.

Newhouse’s vote Wednesday drew criticism from some local domestic violence advocates who say the 27-year-old law has benefited domestic violence victims both locally and nationally.

“Domestic violence shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It should be a nonpartisan issue,” said Cheri Kilty, executive director of the YWCA Yakima, which operates a crisis line and shelter for women experiencing domestic violence.

“To me, it shows there is some lack of understanding of the level of protection needed against abusers, and I hope those lines of communication remain open,” said Emily Washines, a Yakama historian and advocate for missing and murdered indigenous people.

But state Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, a Goldendale Republican who has sponsored domestic violence and MMIW legislation in the Washington Legislature, said she understands why Newhouse did what he did.

“I know his heart is there” to help missing and murdered Indigenous people and victims of domestic violence Mosbrucker said, “but if the bill shuts down shelters for women I can see why he would vote against it.”

VAWA, cosponsored in 1984 by then Sens. Joe Biden, D- Del., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, provides grants to law enforcement agencies, victim advocacy organizations, crisis centers and shelters for domestic violence victims, and imposes penalties against abusers, including restrictions on possession and ownership of firearms.

At the YWCA, Kilty said the funding allows the organization to staff a crisis line and shelter around the clock.

Kilty said she was sorry that Newhouse “voted without consulting YWCA Yakima on the impact the Violence Against Women Act has had on our organization.”

The bill has been routinely authorized by Congress, but in 2019 it lapsed after passing in the Democratic-controlled House and stalling in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Newhouse said he has voted in the past to reauthorize VAWA, and in 2019 supported a one-year extension to work out the concerns he had. But he voted against reauthorization then for similar reasons.

Newhouse objected to a provision in the bill that allows tribal courts to prosecute domestic violence, dating violence and protection order violations that occur on tribal land, even if the defendant is not a citizen of that tribe.

Rather than going through tribal court, Newhouse believes non-tribal defendants should instead by tried in federal courts to “the fullest extent possible.”

He also said a provision of the law that requires faith-based organizations operating shelters and crisis centers to not discriminate because of religious beliefs would hurt women by forcing groups to close their shelters rather than compromise their beliefs.

Republican members of Congress sought to allow faith-based shelters to exclude LGBTQ victims of domestic violence on religious grounds. They also argued that putting transexual women into shelters would create a safety issue.

Kilty said she was not aware of any faith-based organizations in the Yakima Valley operating shelters or legal-aid centers for domestic violence victims.

Washines said federal funding typically comes with parameters, particularly to prevent discrimination. And, she said, trans women need the same protection from domestic violence as anyone else.

“Trans women need support and recognition,” Washines said.

She said Newhouse needs to take the time to learn more about the issue, including talking to trans people and try to understand the challenges they face, particularly in a conservative community where they may not be comfortable.

But Mosbrucker does not see this vote as diminishing Newhouse’s credibility as a domestic violence advocate.

“We see really great bills in title, and see great things in the bill but we see things that we ask to be fixed,” Mosbrucker said.

And if the problems can’t be fixed, she said the only option is to vote against the bill.

“I have had to vote against my own bills,” Mosbrucker said. “Sometimes they put things in that you object to.”

Newhouse said he would support a “clean” version of the domestic violence bill.

VAWA now moves to the Senate, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, holding the tie-breaking vote.

Reach Donald W. Meyers at dmeyers@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: donaldwmeyers, or https://www.facebook.com/donaldwmeyersjournalist.

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