Despite the best efforts of a handful of ultra-conservative Senate Republicans, including both Sens. Marco Rubio (FL) and Rand Paul (KY), who are presumptive competitors for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, the Senate advanced a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on Tuesday by a vote of 78 to 22. This is a great first step, and Care2 members helped make that happen by signing our petition. Of course, every vote against renewal came from Republican men.
Democrats were able to defeat major changes to the bill proposed by amendment by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and John Cornyn (R-TX). Grassley’s amendment tried to strip VAWA of all protections for Native Americans, LGBT and undocumented abuse victims while Cornyn’s amendment tried to roll back extending jurisdiction over non-tribe members to tribal courts. In the end, and after Republican grandstanding over the necessity to protect the rights of abusers, there was strong bipartisan support for renewal, illustrating the widely popular nature of the law and the extreme nature of objections to it.
The bill passed by the Senate also includes the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which will give service providers and law enforcement agencies additional tools and resources to combat human trafficking. Conservative estimates suggest that as many as 27 million people around the world, many of whom are women and girls, are forced into commercial sexual exploitation and trafficked each year.
The measure now moves to the House of Representatives where, sadly, it faces a real struggle for passage. Republicans in the House are not only more reactionary than conservatives in the Senate, but more willing to bear their misogyny openly. That hasn’t stopped the pressure campaign for House passage from starting in earnest.
“I applaud the Senate for passing the Violence Against Women Act,” said Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List. “When the EMILY’s List community helped elect nine pro-choice Democratic women to the Senate last November, this was the kind of progress they had in mind. I am encouraged that this long overdue piece of legislation is one step closer to becoming law, and I hope that the House of Representatives quickly follows suit. The only things standing in the way are House Republicans and their scorched-earth anti-woman tactics, which prevented VAWA from passing last year. But women across the country have made it clear that they are watching how their Representative votes on this issue, and they won’t stand by and let Republican extremists block access to vital services for victims of violence.”
We know House Republicans won’t show any leadership on this issue because they seem to be completely unable to govern in any meaningful fashion. So that leaves the question of what happens next? Will House Republicans really stand in the way of putting abusers and rapists in jail and helping victims protect themselves and move on from past traumas? If past votes are any indication, the answer is, sadly, yes.
Photo from gageskidmore via flickr.