On Thursday President Obama is set to mark a milestone for women’s rights as he signs the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act into law.
Republicans blocked the legislation for nearly a year, with only a minority of House Republicans eventually relenting and joining with Democrats to pass it into law. Most opponents took issue with the bill’s expanded protections for groups including Native Americans and the LGBT community.
As the president signs the bill into law tomorrow, he’ll be surrounded by many of the advocates who kept the pressure on throughout the political battle. “It’s a testament to what happens when you don’t give up and keep pushing,” White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett said on Wednesday’s PoliticsNation.
Jarrett found the opposition puzzling, pointing out that 1 in 5 women will be assaulted or raped at some point in their lives. “With that kind of statistic, how on earth could we not move forward?”
The Violence Against Women Act is the first of many bills the president hopes to sign in his second term in office, including some big issues like immigration reform and the minimum wage. With the unparalleled obstructionism of Republicans in the 112th Congress, the president may need a new approach to win over his colleagues in the coming months and years. Wednesday night, that will include a small dinner with a handful of Republicans–including some of his sharpest critics like Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain–but none of the leadership. Some believe the president is planning to appeal on an individual level, rather than bartering with top brass who aren’t always able to deliver enough votes to get bills passed to begin with.
When asked about that rumored new strategy, Jarrett said of the president, “He’ll do whatever it takes.”
“We’ll talk to whoever wants to come to the table and work with us in good faith,” she said “We have huge challenges… but there is nothing we can’t do with the American people behind us.”
Jarrett is hopeful that this step for women’s right is just the beginning. “We’re already seeing glimmers of light around comprehensive immigration reform,” she said. “We want to find those pathways where there is common ground and move forward.”
“The president as you know is pretty tenacious and he’s not about to give up now.”
And while the president plans to make reforms to entitlement programs, Jarrett said, “He’s not willing to balance our budget on the backs of senior citizens or children with disabilities or the poor.”
After meetings in New York with business leaders, Jarrett says they are “more than willing to pay their fair share, as long as they know that there’s also going to be to entitlement reform and that it’s going to lead to a strengthened economy.”
The president and his supporters plan to drive home that message in the coming months. “We’re just going to keep at it, we’re going to keep going, and that’s going to be what positions our country for growth… I am confident that we can still do big things in this country.”