The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly this week to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), approving the measure by a 78 to 22 member vote. The bill was bipartisan, sort of, in that it garnered the vote of every female senator regardless of party lines. However, 22 Republican male senators voted against the bill because of its provisions dealing with domestic abuse on tribal lands and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Progressive groups called the passage a victory for women. “I applaud the Senate for passing the Violence Against Women Act,” said Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List, said via press release.
When the EMILY’s List community helped elect nine pro-choice Democratic women to the Senate last November, this was the kind of progress they had in mind. I am encouraged that this long overdue piece of legislation is one step closer to becoming law, and I hope that the House of Representatives quickly follows suit. The only things standing in the way are House Republicans and their scorched-earth anti-woman tactics, which prevented VAWA from passing last year. But women across the country have made it clear that they are watching how their Representative votes on this issue, and they won’t stand by and let Republican extremists block access to vital services for victims of violence.
NOW President Terry O’Neill also demanded the House to end their divisive, destructive quest against the bill and vote in support of the Senate version. “We call on the House to take up and pass Rep. Gwen Moore’s (D-Wis.) bill (H.R. 11), which mirrors the bipartisan Senate bill and already has nearly 200 sponsors. There are many moderate House Republicans who should be sponsors of H.R. 11, including the 17 Republicans who recently wrote to House Republican leaders calling on them to pass an inclusive VAWA as soon as possible,” O’Neill said via release. “The time for delay is over. Let’s recognize that all women matter, and pass the inclusive version of VAWA now.”
But it’s not just interest groups urging House action, but Republican lawmakers, too. According to New York Magazine, 17 House Republicans sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor asking them to bring the Senate version to the House and demand they hold enough of the caucus together to reauthorize it.
Will Cantor and Boehner be able to stand up to their own party and lead them to a bipartisan vote? History tells us just how unlikely that may be.