By Alexander Bolton - 04/22/12 11:09 AM EDT
Senate Democratic leaders plan to bring the debate over the so-called war on women to the Senate floor this week.
Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Charles SchumerCharles SchumerCongress departs for recess until after Election Day Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal 78 lawmakers vote to sustain Obama veto MORE (N.Y.) said the Violence Against Women Act would come up for debate before lawmakers leave Friday for a weeklong recess.
Republicans are expected to vote against the legislation because of provisions extending special visas to illegal immigrants who are the victims of abuse and protecting victims in same-sex relationships.
Republicans are scrambling to put together an alternative bill that would allow them to vote against the Democratic measure and duck political charges that they are anti-women.
Democratic strategists hope an advantage among female voters will help them keep control of the White House and Senate in November.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week showed President Obama has a 14-point lead over Mitt Romney among registered women voters, 51 percent to 37.
Every Republican member of the Judiciary Committee voted against the legislation in February.
If Republicans filibuster a motion to proceed to the bill next week, it would give Democrats a good talking point heading into the recess. Democrats have gained traction with women voters since battling over legislation to exempt faith-based organizations from having to provide insurance coverage for contraception and are seeking to add to their advantage.
“It’s my real hope that we’ll be able to get this bill and get through some intransigence on the other side and get it reauthorized,” said Sen. Chris CoonsChris CoonsSenate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Overnight Healthcare: McConnell unveils new Zika package | Manchin defends daughter on EpiPens | Bill includes M for opioid crisis Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare MORE (D-Del.), Friday. Coons’s predecessor, Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGrassley accuses Reid of 'pure unfiltered partisanship' Top Dem: Cures bill funding cut to B Yes, this election will change America forever MORE, is the author of the law.
Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayCongress approves .1B in Zika funds Lawmakers pledge push for cures bill in lame-duck Senate Dems: Add Flint aid to spending deal MORE (Wash.), the highest-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, and Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinSenate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override WH tried to stop Intel Dems' statement on Russian hacking: report MORE (D-Calif.) and Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenSenate passes bill to preserve sexual assault kits Dems call for better birth control access for female troops GOP puts shutdown squeeze play on Dems MORE (D-N.H.) held a press conference last week to highlight Republican opposition to the legislation.
“It really is a shame, I think, that we’ve gotten to this point that we’ve gotten to this point that we even have to stand here today to urge our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to support legislation that has consistently received broad bipartisan support,” Murray said, noting that former President George W. Bush signed the reauthorization in 2006.
After the press conference, Feinstein noted the party-line Republican vote against the bill in the Judiciary Committee and said she had heard rumors that Republicans opposed various provisions.
Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff Sessions3 ways the next president can succeed on immigration reform Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears Trump, Clinton discuss counterterrorism with Egyptian president MORE (R-Ala.), a member of the Judiciary panel, said he was concerned the new version would allow Indian tribal authorities to prosecute non-Indians for domestic abuse on reservations.
Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate passes bill to preserve sexual assault kits Grassley accuses Reid of 'pure unfiltered partisanship' Overnight Healthcare: Zika funding nears finish line | House expected to approve spending bill tonight | New pledge to push medical cures bill MORE (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary panel, is working with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) on the alternative.
"Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act isn't partisan. Despite the rhetoric, Republicans are firmly committed to reauthorizing VAWA,” Grassley said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the bill that cleared the Judiciary Committee failed to address some fundamental problems, including significant waste, ineligible expenditures, immigration fraud and possible unconstitutional provisions.”
Grassley says the Democratic bill does not do enough to guard against “significant waste” and “ineligible expenditures.”
A Senate GOP aide said Republicans will not attempt to filibuster the legislation.
“Nobody is blocking the bill,” the aide said.
Democratic leaders will have to move quickly to wrap up work on postal reform in time to bring up the Violence Against Women Act before the end of the week.
Reid struck an agreement with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellMichigan Dems highlight Flint with unanimous opposition to CR Congress departs for recess until after Election Day How Congress averted shutdown MORE (R-Ky.) to consider 39 amendments to the postal reform bill.
This story was updated on April 23.