While the world rang in a new year and the U.S. teetered on the edge of a fiscal cliff, House Republicans boldly stood in the way of legislation that would have gone toward helping thousands of victims in need.
Not only did the GOP leadership flub the $60 billion relief effort that was intended for Hurricane Sandy victims (although their blocking that bill was quite incredulous in itself), they also managed to obstruct the Violence Against Women Act–a bill first introduced in 1994 that provides funds to prevent, investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women.
VAWA is typically thought to be one of those “easy” legislative measures. Every few years, a vote comes up to reauthorize the bill and every few years it passes with little, if any, opposition.
Why wouldn’t it? The key aspects of the bill are intended to serve and protect victims of rape and domestic abuse--hardly a partisan issue, right?
In addition to its original purpose, the bill was recently revised to include protections for gay and lesbian victims of domestic abuse and crimes against American Indians and immigrant women. Three groups that are especially vulnerable and all too often overlooked.
So when the vote came up to reauthorize the bill, which included the new aforementioned measures, it came as a surprise to many that the Republican-led House refused to sign off on it. Especially after the Senate already approved the bill in a 68 to 31 vote.
"The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 4970, a bill that would undermine the core principles of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)," the White House wrote in a press release. "H.R. 4970 rolls back existing law and removes long-standing protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault -- crimes that predominately affect women."If the President is presented with H.R. 4970, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."
Thursday, the 113th Congress was sworn into office. There is hope that the fresh new faces of this Congress--many of them women and several LGBT--will work toward getting VAWA back up and running.
The fact, however, that the 112th Congress stood idly by and allowed the measure to expire in the first place, that speaks volumes for the current state of our political system.