For a short time, Savanna’s Act seemed like the long-awaited answer to the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Native women. Now, it’s unclear whether the bill will survive the week.
Otherwise known as S. 1942, the bill wound its way through the Indian Affairs Committee before being passed unanimously by the Senate. The reason for the widespread support was clear: While still just a first step, Savanna’s Act—named after Savanna Greywind, a pregnant 22-year-old North Dakota woman and member of the Spirit Lake Nation who was murdered in 2017—would require the Department of Justice to finally keep a nationwide database of missing and murdered Native women.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Seeing as Heitkamp is on her way out of Congress after losing her election in November, finally getting Savanna’s Act in a position to go to the president’s desk was a fairly big deal. All that was left following the Nov. 14 Senate vote was a vote in the House; then it would off to be signed into law.
But with the current congressional session potentially within a week of ending, the bill seems to have hit a mysterious snag. Last week, Sen. Heitkamp posted a thread on Twitter calling out Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican who is retiring at the end of this term, for stalling the bill from moving to a vote in the House. There was no reason given in the thread as to why Goodlatte would block the bill; past an anonymous aide telling the Huffington Post there were “issues with the language,” there’s been absolutely no specifics offered as to why the bill is still being held at the House desk.
This is bizarre! Savanna’s Act is one of the few unambiguously good laws that Congress could pass, and yet there seems to be a game of political horse-trading or a long-held beef keeping it trapped in the House as Congress winds down this session. We’ve reached out to both Goodlatte’s and Heitkamp’s offices multiple times but neither responded to any of our emails.
If you know anything that could answer why Savanna’s Act isn’t already sitting on the desk in the Oval Office, email us!