Congress had a lengthy to-do list as the end of the year approached, with a series of measures that needed action before 2013 began. Some of the items passed (a fiscal agreement, a temporary farm bill), while others didn’t (relief funding for victims of Hurricane Sandy).
And then there’s the Violence Against Women Act, which was supposed to be one of the year’s easy ones. It wasn’t.
Back in April, the Senate approved VAWA reauthorization fairly easily, with a 68 to 31 vote. The bill was co-written by a liberal Democrat (Vermont’s Pat Leahy) and a conservative Republican (Idaho’s Mike Crapo), and seemed on track to be reauthorized without much of a fuss, just as it was in 2000 and 2005.
But House Republicans insisted the bill is too supportive of immigrants, the LGBT community, and Native Americans – and they’d rather let the law expire than approve a slightly expanded proposal. Vice President Biden, who helped write the original law, tried to persuade House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to keep the law alive, but the efforts didn’t go anywhere.
And so, for the first time since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act is no more. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the Democratic point person on VAWA, said in a statement:
“The House Republican leadership’s failure to take up and pass the Senate’s bipartisan and inclusive VAWA bill is inexcusable. This is a bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate and that extends the bill’s protections to 30 million more women. But this seems to be how House Republican leadership operates. No matter how broad the bipartisan support, no matter who gets hurt in the process, the politics of the right wing of their party always comes first.”
Proponents of the law hope to revive the law in the new Congress, starting from scratch, but in the meantime, there will be far fewer resources available for state and local governments to combat domestic violence.
As for electoral considerations, Republicans lost badly in the 2012 elections, thanks in large part to the largest gender gap in modern times, but if that changed GOP attitudes towards legislation affecting women, the party is hiding it well.
Update: Reader AG asks about the House version that was approved several months ago. As I reported at the time, the House gutted the bipartisan Senate bill with a watered-down version, which was widely seen by everyone involved as a joke that undermined the interests of victims. It had no support in the Senate and drew a White House veto threat. House Republicans knew this, and instead of revisiting the issue and/or working with the Senate on a compromise, GOP leaders simply decided the law was not a priority. The result was this week’s outcome.