The political potency of VAWA still lingers


Back in March, we discussed an unfortunate occurrence: at least nine congressional Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act, but then tried to pretend they supported the law after President Obama signed its reauthorization. Four months later, Republicans are still finding themselves tripped up by VAWA.

In Virginia, for example, the state Democratic Party is running this ad targeting Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ken Cuccinelli, highlighting the fact that 47 state attorneys general urged Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, but Cuccinelli wasn’t one of them.

Responding to the ad, Cuccinelli’s campaign called the criticism “petty and false.” So does that mean Cuccinelli actually supports VAWA and Democrats are falsely suggesting otherwise? In an interesting twist, he refuses to say and will not take a public position on the law. As a report from Bloomberg News put it, “In a statement … Cuccinelli touted his work to combat sexual assault, human trafficking and child pornography, without detailing his position on the Violence Against Women Act.”

At least Cuccinelli is trying to be honest – he’s obviously reluctant to say what he believes, because he realizes opposition to VAWA would make him look awful, especially given his positions on other women’s issues, so he’s hoping evasiveness will get him out of a jam.

In contrast, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is facing a similar dilemma, but has fewer qualms about dishonesty.

This one’s just ugly.

While last week he deflected a question about his previous votes against the Violence Against Women Act, today, McConnell explained that he’s a longtime supporter, but preferred an alternative to the one advanced by Democrats.

“Actually I voted for a much stronger version of the Violence Against Women Act than the one that ended up passing the Senate,” McConnell said.

Opposing the Violence Against Women Act is bad. Lying about it adds insult to injury.

First, McConnell isn’t a “longtime supporter” of VAWA. He voted against it 1994 when the legislation was first proposed, and then voted against its reauthorization this year. He voted against it in 2012, too. I believe the technical term for someone who votes against an idea over and over again is “opponent.”

Second, there was no “stronger version.” Democrats and Republicans reached a bipartisan agreement on VAWA, it came to the floor, and it passed with 78 votes – every member of the Democratic caucus plus 23 Republicans. McConnell was part of a small minority who opposed it anyway. After the vote, he issued no press statement to explain his vote.

I have a hunch we’ll be hearing more about this as McConnell’s re-election bid continues.