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Violence Against Women Act Debate Gets Political

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats attacked the GOP over the stalemate on the Violence Against Women Act.

The groups spurned Republican overtures and a managers amendment designed to ameliorate their concerns, deciding on a conference call Tuesday to lobby vigorously against the bill.

The Republican sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Sandy Adams (Fla.), was a victim of domestic violence herself and a former deputy sheriff. But at several press conferences, Democrats referred to the “Adams-Cantor” bill, tagging the proposal with the name of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

Asked why she was referring to the bill that way, Rep. Gwen Moore (Wis.), the leading Democratic messenger on the bill who was herself a victim of domestic violence, said it was “introduced that way.” According to Cantor’s office, that is not the case, and Republicans suspect the moniker was a means of distracting from Adams’ personal story.

Also bolstering the Democrats’ case was the 68-31 bipartisan vote in the Senate.

Democrats on Wednesday tirelessly reminded of the “overwhelmingly” bipartisan vote in which “every woman Republican Senator” voted for the bill.

In the House, Republicans watched the fierce attacks of their bill with a sense of disbelief, thinking the tone of the attacks was at odds with the size of the two parties’ policy differences.

They argued that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had arranged a political ambush with eyes on November’s elections, where female voters will play a key role in deciding the next president.

“If you want to use this bill to engage in social engineering or to cater to certain constituencies because you have the general election in November — that’s what disappoints me about it,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said Tuesday evening.

Gowdy, a former assistant U.S. attorney, had watched incredulously during a Rules Committee markup in which Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) issued a blistering assault on the House bill. “I don’t recognize it,” Gowdy said, regarding the bill Lofgren was describing.

In March, a story in Politico reported that Schumer was eyeing the bill as a “political weapon” and “wedge issue.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) placed the entire story in the Congressional Record the next day, and Republicans have since cited it as evidence that Democrats are cynically using the issue for political gain.

But the story included only one relatively innocuous quote, and Democrats have rejected the reporting as off base.

“Republicans are making the contrast for us,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), arguing that highlighting policy contrasts isn’t politicizing the issue.

Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon pointed to a letter urging passage of the Senate bill that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) had signed.

“When even Republicans like Sen. Murkowski are calling on the Speaker to just pass the Senate bill, you know the House Republicans have taken the political games on this issue too far,” Fallon said.

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