Senate Republicans are irritated at Democrats’ push to exploit the Violence Against Women Act for political gain but signaled today they aren’t planning an effort to block or delay it.
As Senate Democratic women and Vice President Joseph Biden amped up their push to reauthorize the bill at separate events today, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters that Republicans don’t intend to filibuster it, with the assumption that Democratic leaders will at least allow a Republican alternative to be offered for a vote.
“We’re not going to extend this debate,” Grassley said. “There won’t be a cloture vote necessary, and they’ll surely let us have a vote on our substitute.”
The bill has 61 co-sponsors, presumably making a filibuster attempt fruitless, let alone the opportunity it would give Democrats to rail against GOP obstruction on a popular bill.
Grassley, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said the bill, sponsored by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), expands the law too far and costs too much. Grassley pointed to new authorities for American Indian tribes and protections for battered illegal immigrants, gays and lesbians.
Grassley warned that the Democratic push to add all of those items could keep a long-term bill from the president’s desk.
“All these things add up to things that are keeping a bill that could pass on a voice vote from being passed,” Grassley said. “Violence against women except for these additions is noncontroversial. I’m afraid what they’re doing here is they want a political issue — you know, ‘war on women’ — and they are going to end up with another one-year extension.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a co-sponsor of the bill, said that she would work with Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on an amendment to strip the bill’s new authority for tribes to enforce some domestic violence laws. Collins also said she was “offended by the blatant politics being played on this” by Democrats using the bill to attack the GOP.
She dismissed the charge of a “war on women” as “absurd.”
Senate Democratic women, meanwhile, held a news conference urging Republicans to quickly join with them to pass the bill and not filibuster it, pointing out that in the past it has been a bipartisan one.
“I’m worried that a few Republicans are returning to the playbook of obstruction,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Democrats’ campaign arm. “Women in America cannot afford political theater on this issue, not on this issue. Their lives depend on it.”
“It is very important that it not be made political fodder,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said. The California Democrat added that the bill is not a new concept and has been expanded several times in the past.
“We all thought it was a no-brainer to extend it to everybody,” she said, adding that it was a “big surprise” to her in the Judiciary Committee when the Republicans voted against it.
Presuming the bill gets through the Senate, it faces a more difficult road in the House.
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.