The House is expected to give in to Democratic pressure Thursday and pass the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act after failing to find a substitute that can garner the support of a majority of its members.
The Senate passed its bill (S 47) earlier this month with broad bipartisan support. But it includes language unpalatable to many Republicans, including opening domestic violence protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims and allowing tribal authorities to try non-tribal offenders if they commit a crime on an Indian reservation.
Republicans did not like that language, so they attempted to draft a version that could find support in the House. In the end, according to GOP sources, there was greater support in the House for the Senate-passed bill than the House-drafted text.
“You can expect the House consideration on VAWA to begin Thursday [morning] with the House language as an amendment to the Senate bill,” said one House source familiar with the bill. By voice vote Tuesday, the Rules Committee advanced a measure (H Res 83) that would provide for such action.
Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, hinted that the underlying Senate version would win out, in a somewhat cryptic exchange with ranking Democrat Louise M. Slaughter of New York.
“I believe you will have every opportunity to pass that Senate bill,” Sessions told the committee.
Slaughter said, “If you’re saying what I think you’re saying, you’re saying that yours is going to fail, and we can get right down to it” on the Senate proposal.
Sessions replied, “What I’m suggesting to you is, yes, I believe you’re correct and I believe that the intent of this committee is to pass a bill out of this House.” But Sessions would not explicitly guarantee House passage of the Senate measure.
It is virtually certain that a majority of Republicans will oppose the underlying bill, which would again leave House GOP leaders in a situation where they allow a bill to pass with a minority of their members voting in favor.
“Our members are pleased with the hard work put into the House-drafted version of the Violence Against Women Act and are happy to have the opportunity to vote on it as a substitute to the Senate text,” a GOP aide said.
Drew Hammill, spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., celebrated the decision.
“America’s mothers and daughters deserve a vote on the bipartisan Senate-passed legislation that has the support of a majority of members of the House of Representatives on both sides of the aisle,” he said.
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.