Among the loose ends for Congress before the election is the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Though you would think this would be a no-brainer, it got caught up earlier this year in a partisan controversy. Republicans objected to provisions that would have expanded the anti-domestic violence protections to tribal land, undocumented immigrants and same-sex couples. Both the House and Senate passed versions of the bill that catered to their respective bases. And there didn’t seem to be much hope for a reconciliation of the various differences.
Then John Boehner quietly attempted to appoint members of a conference committee yesterday. Democrats condemned the tactic:
A senior Senate Democratic aide dismissed Boehner’s move.
“This shows that Boehner is clearly feeling the heat from women’s groups after having passed a bill that leaves millions of women in the LGBT, tribal, and immigration communities out. He is in an unsustainable spot and Democrats know it,” the aide said. “Moving forward means House Republicans dropping their opposition to including these groups in a final bill.”
The office of Sen. Patty Murray (WA), a Democratic leadership member and point person on the issue, referred TPM to comments she made last week refusing to pare back the bill. “There is no reason to have to go to conference,” she told reporters.
Basically, Democrats aren’t budging. They want the Senate-passed version, which had bipartisan support, to become law, and they’re telling the House to take it or leave it.
Adding to the pressure, Vice President Biden, who authored the original VAWA, published an op-ed with McClatchy:
We need to continue these programs and we need to add improvements. For example, we now know that new screening tools can help law enforcement and the courts reduce domestic violence homicide rates, helping them to step in before abuse becomes murder. Such tools might have saved Sarah Rosio, a 24-year-old Wisconsin woman who was strangled to death by her boyfriend after having been abused many times before her death. Two weeks before her death, Sarah was denied a protective order against her abuser. Sarah is gone now, tragically, but we can help others avoid her terrible fate.
To do so, Congress must make the protections in the Violence Against Women Act available to every person in this country who may ever need them. This simply cannot be up for debate in a civilized society like ours [...]
Support for the Violence Against Women Act runs broad and deep. It includes law enforcement, prosecutors, victims’ advocates, faith groups, and Democrats and Republicans alike. So this should be easy – and beyond politics. Instead, the clock is now running out for the more than 23,000 women who call our national domestic abuse hotline every month and for all women who may one day be the victims of violence.
This is fairly aggressive, but Democrats obviously feel like they have the politics on their side. Republicans are resorting to tactics like “blue slip” issues, arguing that there’s a small revenue-raising mechanism in the Senate bill, meaning the House bill must take precedence. Democrats counter that the House can just pass the Senate-passed bill, they’ll follow suit, and the problem will be solved.
It’s a showdown where both sides show no signs of letting up.