Act Now to Protect Victims of Domestic Abuse
A bill renewing the Violence Against Women Act passed the Senate 78 to 22 on Tuesday. Let's look at the minority.
What's next? Votes against apple pie and motherhood?
Of course not ... we hope. Unfortunately, the minority voters was engaging in business as usual in the U.S. Congress, pandering to extremists on the GOP Party's farthest right wing.
The VAWA was first passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2005. It is intended develop a comprehensive national strategy for dealing with violence against women, and to give law enforcement officials and prosecutors additional latitude to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
The bill was due for extension in the last Congress; it passed the Senate, but the Republican-led House decided to play games with it. Now the Senate has again done its duty, sending it back to the House where no doubt further games will be played.
The renewal legislation sets aside $659 million over five years for programs that operate under the act. What made it unacceptable to a small number of GOP senators -- and may bring similar trouble in the House -- is that it expands the protections of the program to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, and to Native American victims of domestic violence.
If we follow the opposition's argument correctly, those people aren't worthy of special protection. A clue for the clueless: Voting against help for people whose sexual or ethnic orientation frequently make them targets for violence won't make them go away.
The act and the reauthorization have received wide support from law enforcement officials, victims' advocate groups and family support networks.
When the legislation first was renewed in 2000, it passed 95-0 in the Senate, and 371-1 in the House. It won unanimous Senate approval for renewal in 2005 and got a vote of 415-4 in the House.
But the reauthorization legislation stalled last year, when House Republicans objected to the expanded protections for LGBT, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants. In an effort to achieve consensus, sponsors took out the part about immigrants and reintroduced the legislation.
Not good enough for some senators. The VAWA reauthorization would have fared better politically if Democrats hadn't added protections. It would have been the easier thing to do.
But it wouldn't have been the right thing to do. Those groups need the protections the act gives them.
It's hard to imagine that Republicans can't read the gender gap in last year's election. The GOP is losing ground not just with blacks and Hispanics, but with women, too. So now they're going to sacrifice domestic protection for the roughly 155 million women in this country? Just because small numbers of people from the LGBT and Native American communities need help, too?
Republicans must truly have a death wish, or else the more feckless among them are worried about primary challenges from extremists. Supporters of the VAWA extension should contact House members and tell them what's at stake.
Seventeen House Republicans have written their leadership urging passage of a bipartisan bill immediately. This legislation is critically needed to help protect women and other members of society who are victims of domestic abuse. It is shameful that anyone would think otherwise.
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