Bob Goodlatte, a Republican representative from Virginia, is singlehandedly blocking a bill meant to address the alarmingly high numbers of missing and murdered Native women from passing before the end of the year, and Senator Heidi Heitkamp, the author of the bill, is calling him out.
As the Huffington Post reported, the bill, called Savanna’s Act, sailed through the Senate last week, and was widely expected to easily pass the House. That is, until Goodlatte reportedly expressed concern over some of the language in the bill. (It’s unclear what exactly those concerns are.)
The bill is named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a North Dakotan woman and member of the Spirit Lake Tribe who was gruesomely murdered in August 2017. Here’s what the bill would do, according to the Huffington Post:
The bill would require the Department of Justice to train law enforcement agencies to record tribal enrollment information in crime information databases. It would also require the attorney general to seek recommendations from tribes to improve access to local, state and federal crime information databases, and it would create locally developed guidelines for responding to cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.
In short—it’s a fairly anemic but much-needed first step to even begin to address the high rates of violence that Native women experience. According to the Associated Press, the National Crime Information Center had 633 open missing person cases for Native women at the end of 2017 (and these numbers are likely an undercount). Homicide is the third leading cause of death for Native women between the ages of 10 and 24. And a report from the Department of Justice found that more than eight out of ten Native women have experienced some form of violence, and more than half have experienced sexual violence.
In a statement provided to Huffington Post, Heitkamp, who will be leaving the Senate after losing her reelection bid this year, ripped into Goodlatte. “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,” Heitkamp said. “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.”