A Republican Congressman and other factors stalling Savanna’s Act

Rep. Bob Goodlatte introduces Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge as the new 6th Congressional District winner on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 at Holiday Inn at Tanglewood in Roanoke. (Heather Rousseau /The Roanoke Times via AP)

Act creates accountability for federal agencies for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women - Rep. Goodlatte may not vote

Last Thursday, Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota issued a series of tweets calling out U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, for holding up her bill, Savanna’s Act.

In Heitkamp’s tweets, she called on Goodlatte with the following: “@RepGoodlatte is blocking my bill, #SavannasAct, from moving forward. Call his office at 202-225-5431 to urge him to support this important legislation that would help address the epidemic of missing & murdered Native American women across our country. #MMIW”

Heitkamp submitted a series of tweets in one thread outlining how constituents could call on Goodlatte to move forward. She even reached out to Goodlatte’s son Bobby Goodlatte in an appeal to approve the act.

Though Goodlatte may have been the sole figure holding up Savannah’s Act, Heitkamp’s bill faces another obstacle.

Having been stalled last week, the House is out until Wednesday and is scheduled to have only a few days back after that. Considering the end of the session is near, it is near the Christmas holiday and many of the politicians voted out are now without official offices, the questionable passage of Savanna’s Act (as well as a federal spending bill and President Donald J. Trump’s Mexican border wall) looks like an uphill climb.

As Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Emily Cochrane reported in the New York Times:

… Trump, Democratic leaders and the Republican-controlled Congress are at a stalemate over the president’s treasured border wall. But House Republican leaders are also confronting a more mundane and awkward problem: Their vanquished and retiring members are sick and tired of Washington and don’t want to show up anymore to vote.

Hirschfield and Cochrane are calling the state of the House “The revenge of the lame ducks.”

After the passage of the bill in the Senate, Savanna’s Act, which would increase access to crime database information for tribal authorities, mandate training about murdered and missing Indigenous women for federal agencies and more, Goodlatte, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, indicated he had misgivings about Savanna’s Act, thus stopping it from moving forward in the House.

According to the Huffington Post, a Judiciary assistant working with Goodlatte said: “We have been working on this bill in order to advance it, including working with DOJ and stakeholders to address issues with the language.”

Thus far, House Speaker Paul Ryan has not issued a statement publicly about whether or not there will be a vote before the final session adjourns.

As Heitkamp issued in a statement posted to the Huffington Post:

“My bill is being blocked from a vote in the U.S. House because of petty partisan games being played by one individual, Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte ... Unlike Congressman Goodlatte, I am serious about saving lives and making sure Native American women are invisible no longer ― and I’m determined to not let Savanna’s Act go down without a fight. And I hope every member of Congress puts pressure on him so we can pass Savanna’s Act now.”

According to Heitkamp's camp via email to Indian Country Today:

“If Savanna’s Act doesn’t pass in the House in the next few days (and then gets signed into law), it will have to start again from the very beginning of the process in the new Congress. That means members will have to reintroduce it in the House and Senate, it will have to go through hearings and the committee process/votes again, and then will have to pass in both chambers.”


Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling

Email - vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

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