Thursday, May 17, 2012

House Passes Weak, Flawed Version Of Violence Against Women Act After Orwellian Debate

The Violence Against Women Act provides critical funding and training to curtail domestic violence, including funding for police training to handle cases involving sexual assault.  The legislation became law in 1994, and was an unmitigated bi-partisan success, with incidents of domestic violence against women having dropped by over 50 percent.

The Senate had already approved by a 68-31 vote an expanded version of the Act that would provide protection to the LGBT community, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans.  House Republicans will have none of it.

As Steve Benen reports, the House gutted the Senate version and replaced it with "burdensome, counter-productive requirements that compromise the ability of service providers to reach victims, fails to adequately protect Tribal victims, lacks important protection and services for LGBT victims, weakens resources for victims living in subsidized housing, and eliminates important improvements to address dating violence and sexual assault on college campuses. Among the most troubling components of this bill are those that jettison and drastically undercut existing and important, long-standing protections that remain vital to the safety and protection of battered immigrant victims."

Laura Clawson described the debate in the House as "Orwellian," with "members from both parties extolling the importance of cracking down on violence against women even as they disagreed bitterly on the bill in question."
The Orwellian flavor stemmed from the fact that the Republican bill excludes or weakens protections for LGBT, immigrant and Native American victims of violence—a Republican manager's amendment purported to address some Democratic concerns, but that did not adequately do so. House Republicans argued that passing this bill is very important and should be done in a bipartisan fashion, even as they refused to consider the Senate's actually bipartisan Violence Against Women Act—coauthored by a Republican and passed with 15 Republican votes.

Republicans repeatedly emphasized the bipartisan support for VAWA without acknowledging that their bill does not enjoy bipartisan support and that they have rejected a truly bipartisan bill. They also repeatedly insisted that their bill protects and supports victims, ignoring the opposition of a wide swath of domestic violence organizations, law enforcement groups and faith-based groups.

Democrats first opposed a rule prohibiting amendments, then offered a motion to recommit in an attempt to keep confidentiality protections from being gutted, with Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin detailing how as the victim of a violent rape in the 1970s, she felt put on trial as a single mother who must have invited her rape. Republicans, while rejecting bipartisanship and claiming that immigrant women use fraudulent allegations of abuse to get citizenship, wailed extensively about Democrats allegedly playing politics.
But, at least the watered-down version won the endorsement of the National Coalition for Men, as Jeremy Leaming notes.  This is a group devoted to raising “awareness about the ways sex discrimination affects men and boys" whose primary concern with the Violence Against Women Act is that too many men are arrested on “false accusations” of domestic violence.


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