A few weeks ago, the Senate approved the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act fairly easily, with a 68 to 31 vote. Though all 31 opponents were Republican men, the measure enjoyed at least some bipartisan support.
But the measure still has to get through the Republican-led House, which will vote on its own, watered-down version of VAWA today. The White House, hoping to make matters clear to the lower chamber, issued a veto threat yesterday, saying the House GOP version is unacceptable.
The House GOP bill is stripped of expanded protections included in the Senate-passed version, which extends coverage to gay, bisexual, and transgender victims of domestic abuse.
"For instance, H.R. 4970 fails to provide for concurrent special domestic-violence criminal jurisdiction by tribal authorities over non-Indians, and omits clarification of tribal courts' full civil jurisdiction regarding certain protection orders over non-Indians," the White House said in a statement.
"The bill also fails to include language that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT victims in VAWA grant programs. No sexual-assault or domestic-violence victim should be beaten, hurt, or killed because they could not access needed support, assistance, and protection."
The Violence Against Women Act has been a bipartisan success story for nearly two decades, and this year's reauthorization was not expected to be one of the year's more contentious disputes. But the Senate version, co-written by a liberal Democrat (Vermont's Pat Leahy) and a conservative Republican (Idaho's Mike Crapo), is apparently too much for the House.
So, the Republicans have gutted the Senate version. Indeed, the House proposal "adds burdensome, counter-productive requirements that compromise the ability of service providers to reach victims, fails to adequately protect Tribal victims, lacks important protection and services for LGBT victims, weakens resources for victims living in subsidized housing, and eliminates important improvements to address dating violence and sexual assault on college campuses. Among the most troubling components of this bill are those that jettison and drastically undercut existing and important, long-standing protections that remain vital to the safety and protection of battered immigrant victims."
House Republicans are likely to pass their version anyway, sending VAWA to a conference committee. Time will tell how that turns out. But in the meantime, when it comes to assessing the GOP's efforts to undermine women's interests in 2012, the fact that Republicans are putting the Violence Against Women Act in jeopardy clearly deserves a place on a very long list.