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January 9, 2013

Stalling the Violence Against Women Act

The Daily Star

---- — Remember all the fuss when Speaker John Boehner adjourned the House of Representatives without passing an aid bill for victims of Hurricane Sandy?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Rep. Peter King joined others in calling fellow Republican Boehner every name they could think of. They raised such a ruckus that Boehner hurriedly reversed himself and got a portion of the bill passed two days later, with the promise of more to come … pronto.

It was all well and good for that wrong to be righted, but there was another bit of unfinished business that Boehner and his fellow Republicans regrettably left undone.

It’s called the Violence Against Women Act, which became law in 1994 and has been reauthorized without any problems whenever it has come up for renewal … until now.

The law, designed to protect women from domestic violence, provides law enforcement with resources to combat spousal abuse. While certainly not wiping out the problem, it has — according to estimates —  prevented thousands of women from beatings … and worse.

The 2012 bill, passed overwhelmingly by the Senate, 68-31, including eight Republican votes in favor, was expanded to protect women if they’re gay, illegal immigrants or American Indians living in tribal jurisdictions.

This was unacceptable, for some reason that totally escapes us, to the House Republicans, who offered a bill that omitted the added protections. Members of the GOP accused the Senate of “constantly moving the goalposts.”

Well, sometimes goalposts need to be moved, and no amount of homophobia or anti-immigrant bias should prevent them from being moved.

“The House Republican leadership’s failure to take up and pass the Senate’s bipartisan and inclusive VAWA bill is inexcusable,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA., told Talking Points Memo.

“This is a bill that … extends the bill’s protections to 30 million more women. … No matter who gets hurt in the process, the politics of the right wing of their party always comes first.”

On Dec. 12, a bipartisan group of House members, including Richard Hanna, then representing the 24th Congressional District, sent a letter supporting the bill to their leadership.

“If a daughter, sister or perfect stranger was raped, battered or needed help, no one would ask or care what her ethnicity, national origin or orientation was before we came to her aid —  nor should the Violence Against Women Act,” said Hanna. “… Let us pass a bipartisan, inclusive Violence Against Women Act that service providers, law enforcement and most importantly —  all victims —  deserve.”

The 112th Congress is over. The law is no longer the law. The whole process must start over with the new Congress. It is beyond sad.