The Senate is poised to take up this week a bill addressing domestic violence, but past bipartisan support for reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has frayed and two Republican lawmakers are preparing their own alternative measure.
Republicans say they object to the bill because it doesn't do enough to weed out mismanagement of VAWA funds, protect people's due-process rights, or justify new provisions affecting American Indians, illegal immigrants and same-sex couples.
Such Republican recalcitrance, however, drew scoldings from Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Senate Democrats.
"The idea that we're still fighting about [VAWA] in the Congress - that this is even a debatable issue - is truly sad," said Mr. Biden, who as a senator shepherded the VAWA into law in 1994.
"It is inconceivable to me that we are in the process of debate about something that has been so effective," Mr. Holder added at the same White House event on Wednesday.
Democrat Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Dianne Feinstein of California and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire told reporters that it was shameful for Republicans to not support the VAWA bill, and if it didn't pass, it would "absolutely" become an election issue.
Since 61 senators, including eight Republicans, support the VAWA bill, Senate passage is really not in doubt.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, who introduced the bill with Sen. Mike Crapo, Idaho Republican, has urged his colleagues to accept the bill, even with its new provisions.
The bill "takes steps to recognize those victims whose needs are not being served," Mr. Leahy said. But "[t]his is not new or different. It should not be a basis for partisan division."
However, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and ranking member of the Judiciary panel, said Democrats were "manufacturing another partisan, political crisis" with their "new, controversial" VAWA provisions.
"If all S. 1925 did was reauthorize the valuable programs that VAWA authorizes, we would be supporters of the bill," Mr. Grassley and fellow Republicans on the Judiciary committee, Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas, said in a report.
However the VAWA bill - which was approved by a party-line vote in the committee in March - "failed to address some fundamental problems, including significant waste, ineligible expenditures, immigration fraud and possible unconstitutional provisions," said Mr. Grassley.
He and Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas are preparing "an alternative to the VAWA bill" that will fix weaknesses, root out the "well-documented fraud," and block $100 million in new funding for the $412 million program.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said the Senate would likely take up VAWA after it is done with a bill to reform the U.S. Postal Service.
Mr. Grassley said he believes the alternative VAWA bill will also get a vote.
In the House, Democrats, led by Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin - herself a survivor of sexual violence - have prepared a VAWA bill that mirrors the Senate bill, but the House Judiciary Committee has not yet produced a bill.
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