Morning Read: In Stand-Off with House, Leahy Prevails on Violence Against Women Act | Off Message

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Morning Read: In Stand-Off with House, Leahy Prevails on Violence Against Women Act

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2013 at 9:21 AM


After a year of cross-cameral squabbling over the expired Violence Against Women Act, the U.S. House on Thursday put its seal of approval on the law's reauthorization.

For House Republicans, who have long opposed expanded protections for Native American and LGBT victims of domestic violence, the vote was an embarrassing, caucus-splitting retreat. And for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), whose version of the bill now goes straight to the president, it was a big win.

Speaking on the Senate floor just after the House approved the legislation 286 to 138, Leahy said, "Having worked on this for a couple years, I am very happy that the Senate has done what it should do, the House has done what it should do, and perhaps we've taken — and I believe we've taken — a major step to protect women against violence."

Politically speaking, Thursday's vote was a little screwy. 

Leahy's bill passed the Senate last month by a bipartisan 78-22 vote. When House Republicans realized they didn't have enough votes to advance their own, slimmed-down alternative bill, they caved. But before voting on the Senate version of the bill, House Republican leadership set up a vote on an amendment that would have substituted in the House version.

That allowed haters of the more expansive Senate version to still vote 'yay' on at least one version of the bill, presumably to make them look like less of an asshole back home. That amendment failed by a vote of 166 to 257.

Then, something remarkable happened: In a House firmly controlled by Republicans, 199 Democrats joined with 87 more moderate Republicans to put the Senate version over the top. Voting against it were another 138 Republicans.

The New York Times' Ashley Parker explains the significance:

The vote represented the third time in two months that Speaker John A. Boehner has brought a bill to the floor without having the support of most House Republicans. A deal to avert automatic tax increases at the beginning of the year, as well as a relief package for states hit by Hurricane Sandy, also passed the House largely with the support of Democratic votes.

Among those supporting the bill was Vermont's lone delegate to the House, Democratic Rep. Peter Welch. In a statement after Thursday's vote, he slammed the GOP for delaying the law's reauthorization.

"For over a year, House Republican leaders displayed a willful, implacable, but ultimately failed resistance to protecting LGBT, immigrant and Native American women from domestic violence," Welch said. "Today they relented on their insensitive and unsustainable position. I am pleased that a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives has now affirmed what is plainly common sense: that violence is violence no matter what you look like or whom you love."

Needless to say, which version of the bill politically ambitious Republicans supported will surely have ramifications for their respective political careers. 

Former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), for instance, voted for the Senate version, while fellow 2016 presidential contenders Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted against it, as the Washington Post's The Fix blog notes.

For more on the political ramifications of Thursday's vote, check out these stories in The Hill and Politico.

Disclosure: Paul Heintz worked as Peter Welch’s communications director from November 2008 to March 2011.


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About The Author

Paul Heintz

Paul Heintz

Paul Heintz was part of the Seven Days news team from 2012 to 2020. He served as political editor and wrote the "Fair Game" political column before becoming a staff writer.

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