In a departure from the typical floor decorum, Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) exchanged dueling, failed unanimous consent requests on the stalled Violence Against Women Act.
The back-and-forth, marked by passionate rhetoric and punctuated by Grassley walking off the Senate floor before Murray could finish her comments, was emblematic of how frustrating the debate on the bill has become.
Both the House and Senate have passed their own versions of the legislation, but the bill has yet to go to conference because of a procedural snafu from Democrats that has rendered the Senate’s bipartisan offering unconstitutional. Murray was trying to take the Senate-approved language, backed by 68 Members, and attach it to a House shell bill to avoid the “blue slip” rule which requires that all revenue bills begin in the House.
One of the most disputed measures of the Senate’s offering, an extension of emergency visas to abused undocumented women, includes a fee for the visas in question and would therefore be off the table if the current legislation were brought to conference.
“I’m kind of astounded that it took 100 days for the majority to decide the bill they wanted to send to the House would be blue slipped,” Grassley said in a charged speech on the floor this evening.
Grassley said that his offering, which took the same language of the Senate-approved bill minus an extension of the rights guaranteed to gays, lesbians and immigrants, would do what the bill was supposed to. He accused Democrats of politicizing the issue.
“It’s just a question of ‘will it be expanded in a way that was intended to make this bill controversial,’ so presumably it could be made into a political issue in an election,” Grassley said.
Murray objected to his request, but before she could explain herself, Grassley walked out of the chamber, a move that seemed to surprise the Washington Democrat. She continued anyway.
“I have listened carefully to the passion from the Senator from Iowa on behalf of the Republican majority and Speaker [John] Boehner, and frankly, I have to say that it is offensive to say that the issue of violence against women is about politics,” Murray said. “This is about women who are abused, women who are powerless to fight back, women being able to get the protections that they need in this country that has provided protection for a very long time to make sure that women who are immigrants, women who are gay and lesbian, women who are on college campuses get the protections they [need].”
With at most two legislative days remaining before the lengthy August recess, it’s unclear when Congress will be able to approve the bill, which was first approved by the Senate in April and House in May.
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.