Rachel Maddow pulled the veil back on the ugly politics behind today's emotional fight over the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The bill, which was first written by then-Senator Joe Biden, was passed with broad bipartisan support in 1994 and then reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. The bill was never controversial, up until this year at least, when it reached the Tea-Party-heavy House of Representatives. The Republican House made changes to key provisions of the law, namely removing Senate-passed protections for Native Americans, lesbian, gay and transgender citizens and illegal immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse.
The changes to protections for immigrants are particularly hard to pin down. Republicans claim that illegal immigrants were cheating the system by claiming abuse to gain citizenship. But as the Los Angeles Times noted, anonymity for a battered woman is crucial, especially for a woman applying for citizenship in a new country.
"A battered woman whose application depends on her abusive husband certainly might think twice about filing if she knew her abuser would be notified that she was seeking help without him," the LA Times wrote.
Some of the strangest politics behind today's fight were found in the rosters of the groups that lobbied against reauthorizing the bill. Several conservative political organizations, including the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and the Eagle Forum, sent a joint letter to lawmakers, which was co-signed by Timothy Johnson, a North Carolina Republican and convicted domestic violence felon.
Another group lobbying to weaken the bill was SAVE (Stop Abusive and Violent Environments), an entity that, despite its name, actively worked against protecting certain women from domestic abuse. As first reported in the Huffington Post, the treasurer of SAVE is a woman named Natasha Spivack, who helped launch a Russian mail-order bride company. For Spivack, there is a financial interest in ensuring that the international-wife-trade can continue without the interference of laws protecting victimes of abuse.
Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, a victim of sexual violence, delivered some of the day's most emotional statements against the House version. Eventually, the watered-down VAWA was reauthorized today in the House, but the White House has said that while it supports the Senate version, it would veto the House measure.