Early this morning, the House of Representatives passed the Senate's version of the Violence Against Women Act, which includes the protections for LGBT victims, immigrants, and Native Americans that House Republicans rejected at the end of last year. As Amanda Marcotte writes, "their ongoing resistance to this popular legislation was starting to make them look like monsters," and so they caved.
The bill will soon head to the president's desk, and once signed, the federal government will—again—begin providing funds to better prosecute violence against women, and to assist shelters and services for victims of domestic abuse. It's an unqualified piece of good work by a Congress that has been slow to do "good" and "work" for the last two years.
There's also an important political point to take away from this. The House passed the VAWA by a vote of 286 to 138, with all Democrats voting in favor. Only 87 Republicans voted to support the bill. The remaining members of the GOP conference voted against. As with the Hurricane Sandy aid package and the fiscal-cliff compromise, House Speaker John Boehner needed Democratic voters to get the VAWA through the chamber. It's unclear how much this weakens his position with conservative Republicans, but it can't help. Moreover, it explains his reluctance to craft a deal to avert sequestration. Boehner has to do something to shore his position with conservatives, and holding the line on new revenues is the easiest path to take.
Unfortunately, it's not clear that's enough to deal with right-wing restlessness. Even Eric Cantor, the de-facto spokesperson for House conservatives, has had to deal with this discontent. Here's the National Review:
House majority leader Eric Cantor is increasingly frustrated with a group of House Republicans who are working against the leadership, and he’s not afraid of voicing his dismay.
In a closed-door conference meeting on Wednesday, Cantor told one GOP member that if they blocked the Senate-passed Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) from coming to the floor, they’d cause “civil war” in the ranks.
Cantor’s comment irked some Republican aides, who told National Review Online that such strong language is inappropriate. In recent days, some conservatives have been upset about the Senate’s version of VAWA, saying that parts of the bill are unconstitutional.
Things are brewing and tensions are flaring in the GOP conference. We'll see where they lead.