Democrats renew push for VAWA

Hoping to put Republicans on the defensive over gender issues, House Democratic leaders on Wednesday renewed their push for legislation designed to prevent the violent abuse of women.

Different versions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed last year in the Senate and the House, but an impasse over the differences proved to be a hurdle too high in an election year, and the bill died with the end of last Congress.

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Behind Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House minority leader, Democrats this week reintroduced their version — which specifies protections for certain minority groups not named in last year's GOP bill — and called on Republicans to take it up.

"Failure to enact this bill would deprive women and children of vital protection against abuse and law enforcement of essential tools to combat domestic violence," Pelosi said Wednesday at a press briefing. "We must act now."

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), the lead sponsor of the House bill and herself a victim of domestic assault, said renewing VAWA would go a long way toward preventing the kind of abuse she suffered.

"I was one of the people kind of out there getting beat up and sexually assaulted — one of those faceless, nameless women who really needed advocates," Moore said.

Moore's bill is identical to a proposal introduced in the upper chamber Tuesday by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

The Senate last April passed a VAWA reauthorization bill on a bipartisan vote of 68-31. House GOP leaders rejected that proposal over a provision that raised revenues — language that was pulled this year from both the House and Senate bills, Moore said.

House Republicans passed their own version several weeks later, but Democrats dismissed that proposal because it lacked specific protections for Native American, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and immigrant victims of domestic violence.

"The problem with that bill [was] it excluded people," Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, said Wednesday in endorsing Moore's bill. "I can't believe that there is any House member who is going to get up and say, 'There is somebody who lives in America that I do not believe ought to be protected from domestic violence.' Let us hope that's not the case."

Gender themes have loomed large in Congress in recent years, often splitting along partisan lines. Republicans howled, for instance, when the Obama administration adopted a policy requiring most employers to cover contraceptives for female workers.

Most recently, House Democrats have highlighted the discrepancy between the 61 female members of their caucus and the 16 women in the GOP conference — a not-so-subtle dig at Republicans for being out-of-touch with much of America.