WASHINGTON – The House is set to vote today on renewing the Violence Against Women Act, but it’s unclear whether the result will be law or yet another Washington stalemate.
In an unusual maneuver that indicates uncertainty over whether House Republicans can pass their narrower version of the bill, the House Rules Committee Tuesday decided that the House will bring up a broader Senate-passed version of the bill and immediately try to amend it to try to remove its new protections for Native American women and gays.
If that amendment fails, the House then will vote on the Senate-passed version, which includes those protections.
Designed to protect Republican lawmakers from being seen as opposing the popular measure, the odd legislative maneuvering will either result in the Senate bill moving quickly to the president’s desk – or the continuation of a standoff that led to the bill’s expiration last year.
Most House Democrats are likely to oppose the GOP amendment striking the protections for Native American women and gays – legislation that left some, such as Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, flabbergasted. “We’ve heard no explanation for why the Republican majority is opposed to protecting the lives of anyone in the United States from domestic violence,” said Slaughter, D-Fairport. “As an original author of the Violence Against Women Act, it never crossed my mind that this law would ever be used as a vehicle for discrimination.”
Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, however, said he is comfortable with either version of the legislation. “I want to see a bill come to the floor,” he said. Colllins said he favors legislation protecting any Americans from domestic violence but added that he had no strong opinions on the central controversy surrounding the bill: the Senate language allowing tribal courts to try white men who abuse Native American women on Indian land. Because of loopholes in current law, those abusers often escape prosecution.
The House’s most conservative Republicans also object to Senate language extending the bill’s protections to gays and lesbians.
If the House GOP version of the bill prevails, the House and Senate should strike a compromise, Collins said..