GOP anti-domestic violence bill advances, over Dem objections

The House on Wednesday voted to move ahead with a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), after Democrats tried blocking it by raising a point of order.

Democrats oppose the House bill, which omits language prohibiting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people under the law, does not go as far as a Senate bill to protect Native Americans, and makes it harder for illegal immigrant victims of domestic abuse to stay in the United States.

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In early Wednesday afternoon debate, Democrats bristled at the GOP bill, H.R. 4970, because Republicans are not allowing any amendment votes. In a bid to stall the bill, Democrats raised a point of order against the rule for the bill, arguing that the bill contains unacceptable unfunded mandates.

But Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) acknowledged that the real reason for the point of order was to allow Democrats more time to argue against it, given that there will be no amendment debate.

"This bill has always been a bipartisan effort, and I would argue that on an issue like this, it is incredibly important to have a well-rounded discussion," she said. "Why not allow us to have a healthy debate?"

As part of her argument, Moore called on 10 Democratic women to register their opposition to the bill, which they did in brief statements on the House floor.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) dismissed the point of order by saying the Congressional Budget Office has determined that there are no significant unfunded mandates in the bill, and rejected Democratic attempts to paint Republicans as uncaring about violence against women.

"It really pains me to see my colleagues across the aisle make the kind of accusations that they make about Republicans being unconcerned about the issue of violence against women," Foxx said. "How could they possibly accuse us of not being concerned about that issue?"

Foxx also noted that the Republican bill calls for more accountability on how federal money is spent under the VAWA program, which she said shows Republicans are looking to maximize results under the program.

"In fact, I would say that we are more concerned with violence for women, because we want to see those women served better, and we want to see the money spent better," she said.

After this debate, the House voted 239-183 in favor of considering the rule for the bill — three Democrats voted with Republicans. As a result, the House was expected to debate the rule and approve it sometime after 2 p.m.

The same rule governing debate on the VAWA legislation also sets debate rules for the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013, H.R. 4310. Passage of the rule will set up an hour of debate on the NDAA later on Wednesday, but consideration of amendments will be covered by another rule.