by Jeremy Leaming
The U.S. House of Representatives, which has already passed a budget slashing services to the nation’s most vulnerable to protect military spending, is perhaps not surprisingly, likely to approve a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that guts services for victims of domestic violence.
The House is expected to approve the reauthorization measure, H.R. 4970 today, despite differing substantially from the reauthorization passed in April by the Senate. The Senate version extends legal services for low-income victims of domestic violence and extends protections protections for undocumented immigrants, Native Americans and lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender victims of the domestic violence.
The House version, however, as TPM reports, did win the endorsement of a group called the National Coalition for Men. That group is devoted to raising “awareness about the ways sex discrimination affects men and boys.” As TPM notes neither reauthorization measure addresses on the group’s primary arguments against the Violence Against Women Act – that too many men are arrested on “false accusations” of domestic violence.
The endorsement by the men’s group did little to assuage concerns of House Democratic leaders and supporters of the VAWA, some of whom blasted the House version as a shoddy piece of legislation aimed at slowing reauthorization.
For example, the House Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers, who has railed against the weak VAWA reauthorization being rammed through that chamber, said in a May 16 statement that it “rolls back existing law and fails to protect some of the most vulnerable victims of violence.”
Unlike the Senate’s reauthorization measure, Conyers (pictured) noted that the House’s measure “does little to nothing to ensure members of the LGBT community and Native women are protected from violence.”
VAWA was enacted in 1994 with bipartisan support and reauthorized twice since then. The Senate reauthorization was sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Though the Senate reauthorization was held up by Republican-led attacks on the extension of services, it was able to pass the Senate with 68 votes.
Today, Sen. Leahy lauded the Senate’s passage as a bipartisan success, calling it an “example of what we can accomplish when we put politics aside and work to find real solutions to the problems facing Americans.”
Leahy, however, tagged the House version as seriously flawed.
“Their legislation,” Leahy said, “not only fails to include the critical improvements in the Senate bill that would increase protections for Native American women, gay and lesbian victims, battered immigrant women and victims on college campuses and in subsidized housing, it would roll back existing protections leaving many victims more vulnerable to domestic and sexual abuse. Among the most troubling provisions are those that drastically undercut important, longstanding protections that are vital to the safety and protection of battered immigrant victims.”
Leahy also noted that the House’s reauthorization bill has sparked opposition from the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the American Bar Association.
Beyond Republicans lawmakers’ dogged desire to protect and advance policy coddling the nation’s super wealthy, Sen. Dianne Feinstein suggested in an interview with The New York Times that the new opposition to VAWA was part of larger effort “to cut back on the rights and services to women.”
[image via House Committee on Education and the Workforce]