Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) killed the decades-old Violence Against Women Act yesterday when — like the Hurricane Sandy victims aid bill — they refused to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Yesterday was the last day of the 112th Congress, so any bills not passed will have to start from scratch. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), created in 1994, has always been renewed in a no-muss, no-fuss bipartisan manner — until now. The U.S. Senate expanded the bill last spring to include protections for immigrants, lesbian and trans women, and Native Americas, so Republicans balked, refusing for months to vote on the bill. Now, state and local governments will see resources to protect women disappear, literally overnight.
“Back in April, the Senate approved VAWA reauthorization fairly easily, with a 68 to 31 vote. The bill was co-written by a liberal Democrat (Vermont’s Pat Leahy) and a conservative Republican (Idaho’s Mike Crapo), and seemed on track to be reauthorized without much of a fuss, just as it was in 2000 and 2005,” Steve Benen at the MaddowBlog reports:
But House Republicans insisted the bill is too supportive of immigrants, the LGBT community, and Native Americans — and they’d rather let the law expire than approve a slightly expanded proposal. Vice President Biden, who helped write the original law, tried to persuade House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to keep the law alive, but the efforts didn’t go anywhere.
In December, “10 House Republicans signed a letter authored by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and other Democrats urging House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to take up and pass a VAWA bill that covers all victims of domestic violence — much like the bill that passed the Senate — before Congress gavels out for the year,” the Huffington Post had reported.
Eric Cantor is seen by some as the major road block of the bill, especially opposed to the Native Americans protections.
“The standoff over including VAWA protections for Native American women comes at a time of appallingly high levels of violence on tribal lands,” Jennifer Bendery at the Huffington Post reported last month:
One in three Native American women have been raped or experienced attempted rape, the New York Times reported in March, and the rate of sexual assault on Native American women is more than twice the national average. President Barack Obama has called violence on tribal lands “an affront to our shared humanity.”
Of the Native American women who are raped, 86 percent of them are raped by non-Native men, according to an Amnesty International report. That statistic is precisely what the Senate’s tribal provision targets.
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