Violence Against Women Act proponents get to work

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) is the lead VAWA sponsor in the House.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) is the lead VAWA sponsor in the House.
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After decades of bipartisan support, the Violence Against Women Act expired a few weeks ago, after House Republicans blocked a bipartisan Senate bill that would have kept the law alive. For supporters of the 1994 law, which assists victims of domestic and sexual violence, the GOP’s indifference to VAWA was outrageous.

But the fight isn’t over. This week, Sens. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the lead sponsors of VAWA reauthorization in the last Congress, introduced their bill again, and yesterday, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), herself a victim of domestic assault, introduced an identical measure in the House.

So, is there reason to hope this effort will fare better than last year’s bill? Yes. For one thing, as Adam Serwer reported, the new VAWA proposal resolves some procedural concerns House Republicans used as an excuse to ignore the Senate version.

Many Republicans opposed over the bill’s increased number of visas for undocumented victims of domestic violence, its extension of tribal authority over nontribe members who abuse their American Indian partners, or its establishment of employment protections for gay and lesbian domestic-violence workers. But the GOP’s main talking point against the bill was procedural: Pointing to an application fee for visas for undocumented immigrants of domestic violence, Republicans said the bill raised revenue. The Constitution requires bills that raise revenue to originate in the House, not the Senate.

The new version of the bill resolves the House GOP’s procedural objection by removing the portion that would have increased the number of special visas allotted for undocumented immigrant victims of domestic violence. Law enforcement uses them to grant legal status to undocumented victims so that those victims can assist in prosecuting their attackers, who might otherwise use their lack of legal status as leverage to keep them silent. 

Victims’ advocates are hardly thrilled that the provision on law-enforcement visas has been dropped, but they hope to see it resolved in a separate bill – specifically, comprehensive immigration reform.

What’s more, proponents seem to have a larger legislative strategy in mind, designed to overcome far-right opposition.

Sahil Kapur reported that the plan is to “isolate” VAWA critics to secure majority support.

In a series of moves Wednesday that effectively isolate House Republicans, a bipartisan group of senators and House Democrats unveiled companion bills to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. […]

The Senate Republicans flanking Democrats were Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) — all VAWA co-sponsors.

“This is not a partisan issue,” said Collins. “It cannot be a partisan issue.”

“As you can see from the representation here,” said Crapo, “it’s on a bipartisan basis that we have support for this in the Senate…. We’re going to get it done.”

At this point, the House GOP has run out of excuses.


Violence Against Women Act proponents get to work