Senate Democrats and House Republicans are blaming each other for stalling progress on the Violence Against Women Act, a bill with bipartisan support but poor prospects.
For now, the hang-up is over the bill’s revenue provisions.
Specifically, the Senate bill contains a provision that would give battered undocumented women temporary visas to encourage them to come forward. The current cap for U visas, given to crime victims, is 10,000, but that could be increased to 15,000 by using visas unclaimed since 2006.
The illegal immigration provision, which charges a fee, violates a portion of the Constitution requiring revenue-raising bills to originate in the House. The constitutional provision essentially allows the House to kill the Senate bill and force it to pass it again without the offending proposal.
Senate Democrats argue that the House GOP is just looking for an excuse not to oppose the Senate measure and is using a strategy to force Democrats to drop one of three provisions not included in the House bill before even sitting down and negotiating.
“They are trying to win on one of the three issues before we get around the conference table,” a Senate Democratic aide said. The aide said if GOP leaders wanted a deal, they would move the process forward by naming negotiators and going to a conference committee.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said at a Tuesday briefing she would not compromise on provisions allowing Native American courts to prosecute non-Native American perpetrators of domestic violence. The Senate bill, which passed 68-31 in April, included the provision.
The Senate bill also includes language extending protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and the language protecting undocumented women.
The Republican-run House passed its own version of the bill last month, but its proposal did not include the Senate’s Native American, LGBT or immigrant provisions.
Murray indicated that if she is faced with a choice of no bill or a compromise without those provisions, she would prefer no bill.
“I am not willing to pass a Violence Against Women bill into law by throwing out the provisions and throwing under the bus Native American women, LGBT members and immigrants who have stood up and fought hard” to be included, Murray said.
What happens after the current fiscal year, when the authorization for the current VAWA programs expires, is an open question. It is unclear whether Congress will pass the fiscal 2013 spending bill that funds VAWA programs before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year. It’s not unusual for programs to continue to be funded after their authorizations expire, and Murray said that could be the path forward while Democrats continue to fight for their reauthorization.
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