- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A House panel passed a bill Tuesday to renew the nation’s domestic-violence prevention law over objections of Democrats who said it didn’t go far enough to protect certain groups and rolled back protections for others.

The bill to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) can now go to the House floor for a vote.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, led the daylong session on the bill, which reauthorizes nearly $2 billion in spending over five years on the nation’s primary program to protect victims of domestic violence and prosecute offenders.

“This legislation reauthorizes every single VAWA program at the same level as the Senate-passed reauthorization bill,” said Mr. Smith, referring to the bill that passed the Senate on April 26 by a 68-31 vote.

Democrats, however, protested that the House Judiciary bill did not match the provisions of the Senate bill and represented a “war on women.”

The House Judiciary bill rolls back vital protections to immigrant women and “totally omits protections” for other vulnerable groups, including Native Americans and gay, bisexual and transgender populations, said Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat. “This is a flat-out attack on women,” he said.

“This is indeed an attack on women,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat.

Rep. Sandy Adams, Florida Republican and lead author of the House Judiciary bill, explained how she personally experienced domestic violence and later addressed victims’ needs as a deputy sheriff.

The House bill protects victims, sets stiffer penalties for offenders, addresses stalking and “cyberstalking,” and deals with a massive backlog of untested rape kits that are needed for prosecutions, she said. This critical bill shouldn’t be made “into a political talking point,” Ms. Adams added.

Democratic efforts to change the bill, including several to specifically protect sexual minorities, failed. But there was one lighthearted moment.

An amendment offered by Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, over a statute of limitations issue drew a lengthy discussion from both sides of the aisle. When Rep. Melvin L. Watt, North Carolina Democrat, offered an amendment to the amendment to stick with the original VAWA law, an agreement was struck. Members called for a roll-call vote just to prove that the Watt-amended Poe amendment passed 30-0.