The U.S. House approved the Republican version of a bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act yesterday. Iowa's representatives split along party lines, as did most of the House members.
The Violence Against Women Act passed by 222 votes to 205 (roll call). Iowa Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) supported the bill, while Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) all voted against it.
The House bill resembles the scaled-back version of the Violence Against Women Act preferred by most U.S. Senate Republicans, including Iowa's Chuck Grassley. Reporting for The Hill, Pete Kasperowicz described the differences between the approaches.
Throughout the day, Democrats blasted Republicans for bringing up a bill that does not go as far as a Senate bill to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The Senate bill says explicitly that there can be no discrimination against these people under the VAWA program.
Democrats also prefer Senate language that would give tribal courts jurisdiction over domestic abuse cases, even when the abuser is a not Native American, and said the House bill would shut down a pathway to citizenship to illegal aliens who are given certain visas when they are victims of domestic abuse. The Senate bill also would expand the availability of these visas, language that is not in the House bill because Republicans said it would increase the deficit. [...]
Republicans said the bill, H.R. 4970, is essentially a straight, five-year extension of the law that includes many elements of the Senate bill, and strengthens some of the sentences against people guilty of domestic abuse. It also includes improvements aimed at increasing accountability for the VAWA program as it spends money. The GOP said these changes are meant to ensure women get all the aid they need under the program. [...]
House passage could set up a conference with the Senate on its version, S. 1925, which the Senate approved in April. The Obama administration has threatened to veto the House bill.
Bleeding Heartland covered the Senate debate and vote on the Violence Against Women Act here.
Both Latham and King sent out press releases yesterday about their vote on the Violence Against Women Act. Latham took a swipe at Democrats for politicizing the issue and noted that he co-sponsored the bill. He also depicted the House version as an improvement on the Senate's legislation:
HOUSE VOTES TO REAUTHORIZE LANDMARK VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT
LATHAM A COSPONSOR OF LANDMARK BIPARTISAN VICTIM-CENTERED LEGISLATION EXTENDING HELP TO WOMEN AND STRENGTHENING PENALTIES FOR CRIMES
Washington, May 16 - The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation on Wednesday to strengthen and improve protections and resources available to women who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse.
The House passed H.R. 4970, a five-year reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994, with a bipartisan majority of supporters, 222 to 205. The legislation was introduced by Florida Rep. Sandy Adams, who as a young mother was a victim of domestic violence. Adams escaped the abusive marriage before going on to protect domestic violence victims as a deputy sheriff in Orange County, Florida.
In media interviews this week, Adams called out the outrageous and politically motivated claims that her legislation constitutes a "war on women" as absolutely ridiculous. "I've said all along: I want to reauthorize it, I do not want to politicize it," she said. "The victims deserve better than that. Americans deserve better than that."
"Representative Adams continues to inspire everyone in Congress with her example of leadership and courage to protect all women - regardless of race or creed - from domestic violence, and I'm proud to have the opportunity to work with her on this critical issue," said Iowa Congressman Latham, a cosponsor of the legislation. "We have to do everything we can to help the victims of these abhorrent crimes. The Violence Against Women Act has helped countless Americans since it was enacted, and the House showed today that it will stand by its commitment to this law and making sure these inclusive, life-saving resources remain available in the years ahead."
The House legislation reauthorizes for five years two main grant programs in addition to many smaller ones. The two primary programs are the Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders Program and the Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors (STOP) Grant Program. The Arrest program provides grants for establishing or enforcing policies favoring arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of domestic violence. The STOP program helps improve criminal justice system responses and develops comprehensive strategies to deal with violent crimes against women.
The House legislation also promotes educational awareness to prevent violence and improves services for young victims by funding state rape prevention education programs and enhancing campus domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking programs. The House legislation provides for a five-year reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act at the same levels as a similar bill approved by the U.S. Senate.
The House legislation also makes several key improvements to the Senate bill, including nearly doubling resources for eliminating the backlog of unprocessed rape evidence kits and cracking down on fraud and waste identified in several programs.
King, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, didn't sound as pleased with this bill in his press release of May 16 (emphasis in original).
Washington, DC- Congressman Steve King released the following statement today after voting in support of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization of 2012 on the House floor. VAWA channels federal funding to programs that aid in helping women who are victims of domestic abuse, stalking, and sexual assault.
"Although I am concerned that this bill was brought to the floor in a manner that undermined work done by the Judiciary Committee, I understand the importance of reauthorizing VAWA to ensure its resources are available to help fight domestic abuse and sexual assault," said King. "I supported this legislation because I know how important it is to empower women in difficult situations. If a woman is at risk, she should know that she has a place to turn for support and assistance. I supported VAWA in 2005 and am doing so again to see to it that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault have access to the resources and protection when they need it the most."
King's challenger in the new IA-04, Christie Vilsack, had already signaled that she will make this vote a campaign issue.
Christie Vilsack calls on Congressman King to fully reauthorize VAWA
May 16, 2012
AMES, IA - With the House of Representatives set to vote on a partial reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act today, Christie Vilsack released the following statement calling on Congressman King and his colleagues to fully reauthorize the Act and stand up for the rights of domestic violence survivors.
"Since 1994, Congress has given wide bipartisan support to the Violence Against Women Act. In fact, just this month the Senate passed a bipartisan reauthorization bill. Unfortunately, Congressman King and his colleagues in the House are putting politics ahead of the safety and well being of women across the country. Why is Congressman King now willing to tell women who are abused that they don't deserve the resources to get them out of a horrible situation? Why wouldn't he support women and their families who are experiencing violence?
"The Violence Against Women Act gives states and communities the ability to address the crime of domestic violence and gives women the resources and protection they need to escape these situations. Congressman King should be standing up for the women and their families who are victims of domestic violence. Instead, he argues that the Violence Against Women Act interferes 'in the relationship of marriage.' As a member of Congress I will put the safety of women in this country and in my district ahead of these partisan games. No woman in America should have to live in fear of domestic violence. I urge Congressman King and his colleagues to support a full reauthorization, as their counterparts in the Senate have."
Congressman King's History of Opposing the Violence Against Women Act
KING SPOKE AGAINST THE REAUTHORIZATION OF VAWA IN 2005: In the House Rules Committee, King argued that the Violence Against Women Act interfered "in the relationship of marriage that I think we should stay out of." [Transcripts, House Rules Committee, 109-1st, September 27, 2005]
INTRODUCED AMENDMENT TO REMOVE VAWA FROM DOJ REAUTHORIZATION: In 2005, King introduced an amendment to "strike the Violence Against Women Act from the Department of Justice Reauthorization Act." [House Rules Committee, Summary of Amendments on H.R. 3402, September 27, 2005]
SPOKE AGAINST VICTIMS' RIGHTS IN 2011: Steve King came to the defense of presidential candidate Herman Cain in the wake of sexual harassment charges. King argued against the concept of sexual harassment, saying "it's a terrible concept to define an action by the perception of the perceived victim." [Slate.com, 11/2/11]
VOTED AGAINST CONSIDERATION OF VAWA REAUTHORIZATION IN MARCH, 2012: King voted against the consideration of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization in March. [Roll Call 139, 3/28/12]
If and when King and Vilsack debate each other this fall, we may hear more back and forth about whether King supported or opposed the Violence Against Women Act in 2005.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee previewed its own talking points in press releases attacking King and Latham, who is running against Boswell in the new IA-03. Here's the version targeting Latham:
VOTE ALERT: Congressman Latham Puts Politics Ahead of Women's Safety
Congressman Tom Latham (IA-03) chose today to make women's safety a partisan political issue by voting to weaken the Violence Against Women Act and shift power into the hands of abusers. Latham blocked consideration of the Senate's bipartisan Violence Against Women Act reauthorization that passed by a vote of 68 to 31 and would protect all victims of domestic and sexual violence.
More than 300 organizations oppose this weakening of the Violence Against Women Act including the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors.
"You know just how broken Washington is when Congressman Tom Latham plays politics with women's safety and ignores the opposition of local law enforcement," said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Congressman Latham voted against a bipartisan extension of the Violence Against Women Act and voted to roll back basic and longstanding protections for women, shifting power into the hands of their abusers."
Latham Voted Against Considering the Reauthorization of the Bipartisan Violence Against Women Act. On May 16, 2012, Latham voted against considering a reauthorization of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, passed by the Senate with support from 15 Senate Republicans. [H Res 656, Vote #254, 5/16/12]
Latham Voted to Weaken the Violence Against Women Act. On May 16, 2012, House Republicans voted to weaken the Violence Against Women Act. The bill (HR 4970) rolls back existing law and fails to protect some of the most vulnerable victims of violence and shifts power into the hands of abusers. [HR 4970, Vote #258, 5/16/12; Dear Colleague Letter from Minority Staff, 5/16/12]
More Than 300 Organizations Oppose the House Republican Bill. "More than 300 organizations oppose the House GOP bill, including such groups as the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, Break the Cycle, Legal Momentum, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, YWCA USA, AAUW, Business and Professional Women's Foundation, National Women's Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, American Bar Association, NAACP, National Council of La Raza, Human Rights Campaign, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and National Congress of American Indians." [Democratic Leader, accessed 5/16/12]
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Republican Backed Bill is "Anti-Victim." Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, claimed that bill backed by Republicans is "an anti-victim bill that promotes a racist, elitist and homophobic agenda." [Politico, 5/3/12]
National Network to End Domestic Violence Opposed the Republican Backed Bill. "We are shocked that this bill includes provisions that roll back protections for victims and significantly weakens the Violence Against Women Act," said Sue Else, NNEDV's president. "This is an unprecedented departure from this effective law's original intent. Thousands of victim advocates across the country recommended substantial improvements for the latest reauthorization, and the U.S. Senate accepted those recommendations in a bipartisan way. It is alarming that the House Judiciary Committee has not done the same." [NNEDV, 5/9/12]
U.S. Conference of Mayors Were "Greatly Concerned" About Republican Backed Bill. "We are greatly concerned by a provision included in the VAWA reauthorization proposed by the House of Representatives, H.R. 4970, which would roll back confidentiality protections that enable undocumented women to safely come forward and report violent crimes. [...] The House bill, unlike the Senate version, also does not address the continuing challenge of violence in tribal communities." [U.S. Conference of Mayors Press Release, 5/15/12]