The House on Wednesday took a step toward approving a Senate Democratic bill that would reauthorize and modify the Violence Against Women Act.
In a 414-9 vote, members approved a rule governing floor consideration of the Senate bill, S. 47. The vote was delayed for an hour, a likely sign that House Republicans were reluctant to approve a rule that is expected to make the Senate bill a reality.
Republicans voting against the rule were Reps. Paul Broun (Ga.), Scott Garrett (N.J.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Steve King (Iowa), Tom Massie (Ky.), Tom McClintock (Calif.) and Matt Salmon (Ariz.).
And to ensure the rule would pass over Republican objections, Democrats unanimously supported it, something almost never seen in these votes on GOP rules.
Passage of the rule sets up a two-step process that should allow the House to pass the Senate bill on Thursday.
Under the rule, the House will first vote on a House Republican alternative to the Senate bill. But if that alternative fails, as is expected, the House will vote on the Senate bill.
House Republicans indicated on Tuesday that they do not expect the GOP bill to pass, and that the House will approve the Senate bill.
Few Republicans spoke during Wednesday's debate on the rule, and those that did, like Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.), welcomed the vote and outlined the voting procedure that will be used on Thursday. But Democrats used the debate as one last chance to support the Senate bill, and called on members to vote down the GOP version.
House Rules Committee ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said the Senate bill would add new protections for Indian women, immigrants and LGBT victims of domestic violence, and charged Republicans with trying to weaken these protections.
"It's dismaying that some in the majority want to weaken the strong, bipartisan Senate bill, and it's vital that this chamber reject their alternative, partisan amendment," she said.
Republicans have said their alternative proposal offers just as much protection as the Senate bill. For example, they note that it would allow Indian tribes to have jurisdiction over non-Indians in domestic violence cases, and that it would at the same time offer more assurances that these non-Indians receive the constitutional protections they deserve.
In another example, Republicans say nothing in their bill excludes LGBT people from federal grants under the program. But Democrats said the Senate bill says explicitly that no one can be denied grants for various reasons, including sexual orientation.
Democrats insisted that the GOP bill would not offer the same level of protection for these people, and that the bill should therefore be rejected.
"It's really hard to explain to anyone why we would say to the women of America, 'Women of America, step forward. We're stopping violence against women. Not so fast if you're an immigrant, not so fast if you're a member of the LGBT community, not so fast if you're a Native American,' " Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. "What is that? Violence against some women, but not others?"
Democrats also used the rule debate to call again for consideration of a Democratic bill that would replace the pending $85 billion sequester with a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes. Democrats called on members to use a procedural vote to consider this bill, but that request was rejected by the House.