Every so often, Congress has to tackle “no-brainer” legislation. These are bills that, for the most part, are broadly supported by both parties and don’t require much in the way of time, negotation, or effort to resolve and pass. One of them is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provides funding for shelters and other services, and targets resources toward prosecution of violent crimes against women. The law has come up for reauthorization twice before—in 2000 and 2005—and in both cases passed without substantial opposition.
The current bill to reauthorize the VAWA extends the laws’ protections to same-sex couples and Native Americans living on reservations, as well as allow battered undocumented immigrants to obtain temporary visas. It was crafted by Senators Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, and Mike Crapo, a Republican from Idaho. It was voted out of the Senate by a 68 to 31 vote, and was expected to pass the House by a similarly large margin.
Of course, this assumed sensible behavior from House Republicans, and as we’ve seen over the last two years—and in particular, over the last two weeks—that’s an unreasonable assumption to make. When the Senate version of reauthorization reached the House, Republicans passed an amended version that stripped the original of its added protections. The Senate continues to support its version, and as such, reauthorization has died on the floor. There’s no doubt that the Senate will take up the bill again once the new session begins, but in the meantime, law enforcement will go without needed resources, as well shelters, hotlines, and other services for victims of domestic violence.
To put this another way, House conservatives would rather kill the Violence Against Women Act—which has helped drive a significant reduction in domestic violence—than allow it to be reauthorized with new protections for Native Americans, LGBT Americans, and undocumented immigrants.
Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican Party.