GOP advances effort to reauthorize bill against domestic violence

The House on Wednesday afternoon advanced legislation that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) for another five years, overriding Democratic arguments that the Republican bill should be scrapped to consider a bipartisan Senate bill.

Members approved the rule governing floor consideration of the bill in a 235-186 vote. That mostly party-line vote followed an hour of debate in which Democrats accused Republicans of moving a bill that would not offer enough protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, or Native American women.

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"If a woman is in a lesbian relationship with another woman, should she not be protected if she's a victim of domestic abuse?" Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said. "If the woman doesn't have the documentation to be in this country, and … is here illegally, should she not be protected under this law?"

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the bill is "but one more assault on what has become sadly but surely known as the war against women."

The House bill, H.R. 4970, does not include Senate 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. But Republicans said on the floor that the concept in their bill is that all Americans deserve equal protection under the law.

"I just become so distressed when I hear the allegations that there is a war on women," Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) said. "When we sat down, when we began discussing VAWA, we sat down with the understanding that Americans deserve equal protection under the law. We are not going to single out, we are not going to distinguish one victim from another. Any woman, any person I should say, who is a victim of domestic violence is a victim of domestic violence, and beyond that it should be of no concern."

Buerkle added that the manager's amendment to the bill makes some of the changes that Democrats have said should be made. But that was not enough to persuade Democrats, and one Republican said she wished these changes could be made.

"I see no reason to exclude these provisions from the House bill," Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) said.

With the rule approved, the House is expected to debate the bill for an hour before passing it. The rule prohibits consideration of any amendments to the bill.

The rule also provides for an hour of debate on H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2013. That bill authorizes $643 billion in defense spending, but it received scant attention during debate.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) noted his opposition to the NDAA, and said he is opposed because it authorizes too much spending in Afghanistan. Polis also said he is "dismayed" by the NDAA because it authorizes $8 billion more in defense spending than the cap agreed to last year in the Budget Control Act.

Polis made many of the points that Republicans usually make against Democrats when Democrats are defending social spending.

"As the deficit spirals out of control, we need to tighten our belt and balance our budget," Polis said. "This bill continues to kick the can down the road towards balancing our budget."

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