Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers speaks during the House Republicans news conference on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act today. Behind her are (from left) Reps. Sandy Adams, Kristi Noem, Vicky Hartzler and Ann Marie Buerkle.
Election year politics threatens to derail the typically bipartisan renewal of the Violence Against Women Act as House Republicans and Senate Democrats chart a collision course over explicitly extending protections to Native Americans, illegal immigrants and others.
House Republicans announced today that they are drafting a bill that is not expected to include provisions in the Senate Democrats’ version that would help Native Americans, illegal immigrants, and lesbian, gay and transgendered individuals.
“We are still in the drafting phase, but I will tell you that we are not going to be looking at the controversial issues that detract from what is actually VAWA,” bill sponsor Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) said at a news conference. “We need to make sure that we don’t allow this bill to become a political issue. This [has been] a bipartisan bill, and it should stay as such.”
Differences between the two bills will have to be reconciled in a conference, which could delay enactment of a measure complicated by political considerations. Of course, the fact that a conference committee is even being contemplated could bode well for an eventual compromise.
Currently, the parties are staking their ground. The GOP has charged Senate Democrats with using the bill to cast Republicans as unfriendly to women, a key demographic that could help decide the November elections. Recent polls show Republicans trailing Democrats with female voters.
The House bill, which should be fully drafted by the end of the week, could be considered by the House Judiciary Committee the week of May 7 and on the House floor the following week, Adams said.
The Senate could clear its bill as soon as Thursday, but final passage could spill until after the recess.
Republicans argued that there is no need to include the Senate Democrats’ specifications in the bill because “victims’ services are for everyone,” Adams said.
Rep. Kristi Noem, also a co-sponsor, said that Republicans want to ensure that the final version of the measure does not have any unintended consequences with regard to criminal law.
“It’s not meant to exclude anyone; the intention is to truly get the funding and the programs for the victims,” the South Dakota Republican said. “We want to make sure that we are getting the help to victims. We just need to make sure that we are also consistent throughout our criminal law policies.”
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.