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House approves violence bill

GOP says ‘common sense’ effort doesn’t single out victims

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The House passed a domestic-violence bill Wednesday along largely party lines despite a warning from the White House that President Obama would veto it.

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed, 222-205. Six Democrats supported the bill and 23 Republicans did not.

It now goes to conference sessions to be melded with a Senate VAWA bill that passed, 68-31, including 15 Republicans.

Both bills authorize about $650 million a year for five years for VAWA programs.

At issue during Wednesday's debate were policies involving prosecution of abusers on tribal lands and among immigrant communities.

There was also disagreement about adding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons into the law. House Republicans stressed that VAWA already protects all victims, so the law doesn't need to start listing victims by category.

Democrats replied that LGBT persons need special protections, and the Senate was correct to tell VAWA grantees to give services to people without regard to sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Women on both sides of the aisle dominated the House debate.

"Make no mistake about this - this is a victim-centered bill," said Rep. Sandy Adams, Florida Republican and lead sponsor. VAWA covers all victims - "we do not segment out. We do not pit victim against victim."

The bill is "common sense," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, North Carolina Republican, one of several Republicans who touted the bill's new rules on accountability, audit requirements and fraud-prevention.

Other Republican women said the new provisions against cyberstalking would protect more women, including those on college campuses, and nearly double funding aimed at processing rape kits, so that more prosecutions can go forward.

"As a woman, I'm proud of this bill," said Rep. Sue Wilkins Myrick, North Carolina Republican.

Democrats countered - even taunted - Republicans.

"Who supports this bill?" asked Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat, citing opposition from more than 300 organizations. If everyone from Planned Parenthood to the National Association of Evangelicals rejects this bill, "who thinks this is a step in the right direction?" he asked.

During the day, Democratic women stood to say that the Republican bill "weakens protections" for women, and the House should enact the Senate bill.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat, said she "couldn't imagine" herself not voting for a VAWA bill, but she could not support a bill that endangers women, ignores needs and fails to protect LGBT persons.

Both sides chided each other for using the bill to play partisan politics.

"This bill declares war on women," said Rep. Judy Chu, California Democrat.

"If members choose to oppose this bill for political reasons, that's their decision," said Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "A vote against this bill is a vote against common sense and a voice against helping abused women."

The White House inserted itself into the debate by issuing a policy statement that it "strongly opposes" H.R. 4970, and that if the House bill is presented to the president, "his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."

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