Monday, January 7, 2013

Whither, VAWA?

Throughout 2012, women's rights advocates watched in horror as the G-O-TEA led House continually blocked final passage of the Violence Against Women Act. Here in Nevada, they were especially noting Joe Heck's callous disregard for so many women's lives. And sadly, this story still isn't over yet.

In fact, as of now there is no federal Violence Against Women Act.

Back in April, the Senate approved VAWA reauthorization fairly easily, with a 68 to 31 vote. The bill was co-written by a liberal Democrat (Vermont's Pat Leahy) and a conservative Republican (Idaho's Mike Crapo), and seemed on track to be reauthorized without much of a fuss, just as it was in 2000 and 2005.

But House Republicans insisted the bill is too supportive of immigrants, the LGBT community, and Native Americans -- and they'd rather let the law expire than approve a slightly expanded proposal. Vice President Biden, who helped write the original law, tried to persuade House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to keep the law alive, but the efforts didn't go anywhere.

And so, for the first time since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act is no more.

House Republicans are now blaming Senate Democrats for (gasp!) crafting a comprehensive bill that offers help to as many women as possible. Oh, and that bill attracted broad BIPARTISAN support in the Senate! Even some Senate Republicans were begging their House colleagues to just pass the bill already. Yet instead of agreeing to good policy for the nation, the House G-O-TEA (again) doubled down on petty politics by blaming Democrats for daring to include LGBTQ women and women of color in the Violence Against Women Act.

Apparently, they still don't realize they're engaging in rather disgusting behavior. Because the G-O-TEA can't stand doing anything that helps communities of color and the LGBTQ community, they're willing to let the Violence Against Women Act expire. And by letting VAWA expire, these House G-O-TEA "culture warriors" are adding unnecessary burdens to local law enforcement in curbing domestic violence. Yes, Virginia, there are real world consequences for playing petty politics with essential public policy.

Last year, Dean Heller was one of the Senate Republicans breaking ranks to support VAWA renewal. If he really wants to prove his post-election "moderate" street cred, he can start by telling his Nevada Republican colleagues in the House to stop playing silly political games with serious legislation meant to help women caught in the grip of domestic violence.

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