The bipartisan legislation will sustain a depleted fund created by Ronald Reagan.
The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday night to pass a bill to better fund a program that compensates and supports crime victims. The bill passed with significant bipartisan support, with all 216 Democrats and 168 Republicans supporting it, but 38 Republicans voted against it.
The bipartisan VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act will increase the funding stream for a longstanding program that dates back more than 35 years.
The Victims of Crime Act, signed into law in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, created a fund to use federal fines and criminal penalties to support victims. It does not rely on tax dollars and has helped millions of Americans — including a substantial number of children.
According to House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, who authored the fix legislation, the program is "the primary source of federal funding for thousands of victim service providers around the country, including programs serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, trafficking, and drunk driving," and as well as funds for victims' medical bills, lost wages, and funeral costs.
Noting that deposits into the fund have dropped over the past few years — in part due to criminal justice reforms that have brought more deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements — Nadler proposed putting the penalties collected from those cases into the fund.
"This bipartisan and bicameral legislation ensures that programs and services assisting victims of crime are fully funded and are better supported, with no new taxpayer dollars," he told colleagues on Tuesday.
More than a dozen Republicans co-sponsored Nadler's fix.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) praised the bill in a House floor speech, noting, "In all, more than 6,000 organizations nationwide are funded through this act. However, because funding has fluctuated and at times has been diverted by the Department of Justice, this, in fact, will both increase and stabilize those funds."
"If we do not act swiftly to stabilize the VOCA funding, thousands of Americans will be unable to access lifesaving services. These programs have never been more important," co-sponsor Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) said. "The pandemic has put women and children, in particular, at an increased risk of abuse and domestic violence. We cannot leave victims without support during frightening and vulnerable times."
Though no members spoke out against the bill during the floor debate, 38 right-wing Republicans voted against it during the roll call, including Andy Biggs of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Chip Roy of Texas.
Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who also voted against it, railed against the bill, and her Republican colleagues, on Twitter. She noted that the proposal "never went through committee, and will cost American taxpayers $7.5 billion," while bragging that she had forced a lengthy recorded vote — rather than a quick voice vote — on final passage.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill will simply move funds "already being collected under current law," and provides "about $1 billion in new budget authority each year" and a $7.5 billion increase in direct spending over the 2021 to 2031 period.
The GOP opponents' votes went against their own party doctrine. The 2016 Republican National Committee platform — effectively readopted in 2020 — explicitly called on Congress to protect the rights of victims and their families.
"They should be told all relevant information about their case, allowed to be present for its trial, assured a voice in sentencing and parole hearings, given access to social and legal services, and benefit from the Crime Victims Fund established under President Reagan for that sole purpose," it stated.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.