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Domestic violence law clears House, but some Republicans aren't happy

The Violence Against Women Act now goes to President Obama's desk, but a majority of Republicans in the House didn't back it. Some say the domestic violence law was flawed and rammed through by leadership.

By Staff writer / February 28, 2013

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D) of California, accompanied by fellow House Democrats, leads a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington earlier this year to discuss the reintroduction of the Violence Against Women Act. The domestic violence bill passed the House Thursday.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP/File

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Washington

Last year, Republican concerns with the Violence Against Women Act were a primary exhibit in the Democrats’ argument that the GOP was waging a “war on women.”

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This year, a nearly-identical bill will land on the president’s desk with wide bipartisan support in both chambers after the House passed the Senate’s version of the bill, known as VAWA, on Thursday.

What a difference an election – and President Obama’s commanding performance with female voters – makes.

“I am proud that such important legislation was reauthorized today with bipartisan support. Republicans remain committed to protecting all women against acts of domestic violence,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R) of Washington, the House’s fourth-ranking Republican, in a statement.

“Today we must remember why this bill first passed almost 20 years ago,” said Representative McMorris Rodgers, whose elevation to leadership at the beginning of this Congress was widely seen as an acknowledgment by the GOP that it needed to up its appeal to women. “Protecting women was our first priority then, and it must be our first priority now.”

All 199 Democrats were joined by 87 Republicans in voting for the measure after a Republican alternative that gave weaker protections to American Indians, did not include policy changes to combat human trafficking, and gave less direct protection to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans, among other differences, came up short of the votes needed to pass. The Senate passed the legislation with a commanding 78 to 22 vote, including all Democrats and a majority of Senate Republicans.

In 2012, a similar bill passed the House 222 to 205 with 23 Republicans in opposition and six Democrats in favor and with similarly broad bipartisan appeal in the Senate.

However, that bill foundered when Republicans insisted that a procedural point made the Senate bill invalid. (Senate Democrats included a fee in their bill to pay for more visas for abused undocumented immigrants, violating the constitutional rule that all revenue measures have to originate in the House.) 

The two chambers never attempted to hammer out their differences in a bicameral committee and the bill died – except in the campaign rhetoric of Democrats.

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