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Urge Congress not to weaken Franken amendment

Jamie Leigh Jones

By now, you are probably aware of an amendment to a bill funding the Department of Defense that would prohibit the U.S. government from doing business with defense contractors who deny employees who have been raped or sexually assaulted, like Jamie Leigh Jones, the right to hold them accountable in court. This amendment, introduced by Senator Al Franken, passed the Senate 68-30, with all 30 “no” votes coming from Republicans. The vote has received a great deal of attention and prominent commentators have both criticized and defended these 30 Republican senators for their votes (mostly criticizing).

But the bill has yet to become law – the House and the Senate still need to agree on final language – and there is troubling news coming from Washington. The Department of Defense initially opposed the amendment on the floor, and has cited problems with “enforcement.” The White House has kicked this issue over to the Pentagon and has said little more publicly than that they support “the intent of the amendment,” though it’s unclear exactly what that means. There were also early reports that the provision might be weakened in Congress.

The amendment is currently in limbo, but we need to ensure that it is not removed or weakened. Senator Franken’s amendment is important to the untold number of women who have already been sexually harassed or assaulted overseas. Jamie Leigh Jones was not alone – other women have reported similar cases, to say nothing of the women who are, understandably, reluctant to come forward. It is also important because it will change the lawless environment that companies like KBR have let fester in Iraq. If these contractors can be held accountable for allowing their employees to be abused, they will have an incentive to prevent future assaults.

Some Democratic challengers have already begun using this tough vote against Republican incumbents like David Vitter and Richard Burr. It would be the height of political hypocrisy for Democrats to chide the Republicans who voted against the amendment on the one hand, while watering down the provision’s protections on the other. Republicans are already responding by basically saying, “Hey, we’re on the same side of this as the White House.” (See here, here and here.)

Contractors and politicians are making their voices heard, but it’s time for someone to speak up for the victims. Please join us in telling the members of the House and Senate conference that you want the Franken anti-rape amendment to become law:

Senator Daniel Inouye (Chairman) (HI)

Senator Robert C. Byrd (WV)

Senator Patrick Leahy (VT)

Senator Tom Harkin (IA)

Senator Byron Dorgan (ND)

Senator Richard Durbin (IL)

Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA)

Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD)

Senator Herb Kohl (WI)

Senator Patty Murray (WA)

Senator Arlen Specter (PA)

Senator Thad Cochran (MS)

Senator Christopher Bond (MO)

Senator Mitch McConnell (KY)

Senator Richard Shelby (AL)

Senator Judd Gregg (NH)

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX)

Senator Robert F. Bennett (UT)

Senator Sam Brownback (KS)

Rep. John P. Murtha (PA)

Rep. Norman D. Dicks (WA)

Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (IN)

Rep. James P. Moran (VA)

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH)

Rep. Allen Boyd (FL)

Rep. Steven R. Rothman (NJ)

Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA)

Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (NY)

Rep. Carolyn C. Kilpratrick (MI)

Rep. David R. Obey (WI)

Rep. C.W. Bill Young (FL)

Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (NJ)

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (KS)

Rep. Jack Kingston (GA)

Rep. Kay Granger (TX)

Rep. Harold Rogers (KY)

Rep. Jerry Lewis (CA)

Also, we need to call on the White House (calls are better than e-mails) to speak out publicly and unequivocally in support of the Franken amendment.