“When something like the Violence Against Women Act — a bill Joe Biden authored, a bill that once passed by wide bipartisan margins — is suddenly called to question, that makes no sense. ... That’s not something we should still be arguing about,” Obama said to cheers.
But Senate Republicans opposed the bill in the Judiciary Committee because the new version — which has 61 co-sponsors — expands the bill in several ways, including provisions aimed at protecting gays, lesbians, transgendered people, Native Americans and battered immigrant women.
The GOP is promising an effort on the Senate floor to strip those and other new provisions, with Congressional Quarterly reporting last month that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) is taking the lead. The Senate could take up the measure sometime next week.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has sought to downplay the partisan tensions, touting his original co-sponsor, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and his Republican co-sponsors.
“Domestic and sexual violence knows no political party,” Leahy said March 22. Additionally, White House officials denied a political motive for the bill but said Republicans will have difficulty justifying their opposition.
Ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has made it clear that Republicans do not intend to block the bill but want to offer their amendments. Grassley accused Democrats in a statement of “manufacturing another partisan, political crisis.”
If the bill gets through the Senate, as seems likely, there’s no guarantee it will move in the House — at least not without some significant modifications.
House Democrats are keeping up their own offensive on the bill, with Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) leading the charge last month with an emotional appeal on the chamber floor.
“Violence against women is as American as apple pie. And I know not only as a legislator who — but from my own personal experience, violence — domestic violence — has been a thread throughout my personal life, up to and including being a child repeatedly sexually assaulted, up to and including being an adult who has been raped.”
Democrats staged a protest vote pushing for consideration of the bill on the House floor, and a Democratic aide said today that there will be more to come.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.