Six months after Senate Democrats passed their version of the bill that extends domestic violence protections to LGBT women, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans, the two sides couldn’t be further apart. Rather than expand protections for domestic violence victims, House Republicans narrow who can and cannot benefit under the bill. The House Republicans’ version also makes it more difficult to report abuse and seek help in some instances, cuts funding for programs and scales back protections altogether.
Despite the differences in the two versions, Senators from both parties have reached out to House Speaker John Boehner, urging him to take up the Senate version so that critical and popular programs do not fall victim to political grandstanding. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) urged the Speaker in June to put politics aside and do the right thing. “Saving the lives of victims of domestic violence should be above politics. Yet politics seem to have gotten in the way of House passage of the bipartisan Senate Violence Against Women (VAWA) Reauthorization Act,” Leahy and Murkowski wrote to Boehner. “We cannot afford to let another day go by. We urge you to swiftly allow for an up-or-down vote in the House on the Senate’s bipartisan VAWA Reauthorization Act.”
Because the two sides can’t come to a compromise the future of the extremely popular bi-partisan measure is in serious doubt. And like with most of legislation to come from the Tea Party-dominated House, the fight over VAWA is as much symbolic as one that puts women in harms way. Failing to extend VAWA means funding that goes toward state and local domestic abuse prevention and treatment programs will dry up. But that’s exactly the point.
As Robin Marty points out, conservatives are punishing women for the election. In Ohio, Republicans renewed efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and pass more abortion restrictions. States like Texas have decided to forgo healthcare reform altogether for their citizens, opting out of the federal exchanges. And now House Republicans are doing their best to dismantle one of the most successful and popular bi-partisan, pro-woman pieces of legislation in our history.
When Mitt Romney blames his loss on the fact that President Obama campaigned promising women voters “gifts” like free contraception and Paul Ryan laments the “urban vote,” it is going to take a lot more than a Bobby Jindal scolding to suggest that the GOP is anything but a party of spiteful old men.
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