SHAHEEN FLOOR STATEMENT: HOLD ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NOMINEE PUT WOMEN, CHILDREN OF AT RISK

February 11, 2010

I came down to speak on the Senate floor today because there were Senators who were blocking the confirmation of Susan Carbon, who has been nominated to be the new Director of the Office on Violence Against Women. Susan is from my home state of New Hampshire. For two months, The Office on Violence Against Women was denied leadership and direction not because there are Senators who think Susan Carbon is unqualified for this position, but because they believed blocking her confirmation somehow gains them leverage on completely unrelated pet issues.

I understand, finally, today, after the issue had been raised in the press, that the hold has been lifted. 

Blocking the confirmation of Susan Carbon as Director of the Office on Violence Against Women is an example of what's wrong with Washington.

Every two minutes someone in this country is a victim of sexual violence. Every 52 seconds a woman is victimized by a spouse or partner. These crimes devastate victim's lives. They shatter families.  They often create fear in whole communities.   The Office on Violence Against Women leads our nation's efforts to prevent these deadly crimes and to identify, capture and punish perpetrators. The Office on Violence Against Women works with law enforcement, victim advocates, health care providers and others. It provides financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are working to end domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. I am sure that every Senator personally knows someone who has been a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. I am sure that all Senators know how hard their local police and victim advocates work to stop domestic and sexual violence and how much the communities in their states appreciate the assistance they get from the Office on Violence Against Women. I imagine that almost every Senator at one time or another has taken credit for the funding an organization back home gets from the Office on Violence Against Women. Yet, despite a unanimous vote by the Judiciary Committee recommending Susan Carbon's confirmation on December 3rd of last year, unnamed Senators blocked her confirmation for two months. 

President Obama's choice to lead our country's efforts against domestic and sexual violence happens to be a state-court judge from New Hampshire.  It might interest the Republican Senators who were blocking her confirmation to know that it was Judd Gregg, the Senior Senator from New Hampshire, who first recognized Susan's capabilities and potential. In 1991 then-Governor Gregg appointed Susan Carbon to be a part-time district court judge. After I became Governor, I appointed Susan to be a full-time judge. Because of her commitment to ending domestic violence and her expertise in family law, she was named the Supervisory Judge of the Family Division, a position she still holds.

Susan Carbon is exceptionally qualified to serve as the Director of the Office on Violence Against Women. She is the leading voice in New Hampshire on domestic violence and family law and has been the driving force behind many of New Hampshire's efforts to strengthen legal protections for victims of domestic violence.  She also has become a national leader on domestic violence. She frequently serves as faculty for the National Judicial Institute on Domestic Violence and she chaired the project which produced the guidebook for professionals in their work around domestic violence court orders. I don't know what political party Susan Carbon belongs to. I do know she is a good and decent person who is anxious to take on the responsibility of leading the Office on Violence Against Women.

I ask that Senators who think about blocking such nominations in the future to imagine what it is like to explain to a nonpartisan, earnest public servant, eager to assume a new position of national leadership, that her confirmation is being blocked because one or two anonymous Senators want a new federal building in their state or a defense contract awarded to a certain company or because they are mad at Attorney General Eric Holder for his position on some other unrelated issue.

These Senators cloaked in anonymity were not punishing Attorney General Holder by blocking Susan Carbon's confirmation. These Senators were punishing the victims of domestic and sexual violence in states across this country. They were punishing the police officers who put their lives at risk every day when they enter homes plagued by domestic violence. They were punishing the community groups that are working to prevent domestic and sexual violence. What these Senators did by blocking the confirmation of the Director of the Office on Violence Against Women for two months was simply and plainly wrong.