Republicans have once again blinked in a contest with Democrats. This time, it wasn't the budget. The GOP has now embraced an expansion of government that violates the principles of federalism out of a fear of being labeled the anti-women party.
The GOP-dominated House rolled over Thursday with an overwhelming 238-168 vote in favor of a radically expanded Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act. Eighty-seven weak-kneed Republicans were cowed by the bill's title into approving special treatment for lesbian, bisexual and transgendered women. The bill also grants more visas to illegal immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse and gives Indian tribal authorities jurisdiction over non-Indians accused of domestic violence within the borders of a reservation -- a provision which raises serious constitutional questions.
The measure, which now heads to President Obama for his signature, even expands the definition of domestic violence to include causing "emotional distress" or using "unpleasant speech." All this is an obvious political ploy. Democrats are recycling the "Republican war on women" theme they used during the November elections, and they hope it will win for them the keys to the House in 2014.
Violence against women is deplorable, without exception. So, too, is violence against men. Domestic violence and similar reprehensible acts are already crimes under state law that should be vigorously enforced. Republicans are too afraid of the political consequences to pause and ask what business the federal government has in getting involved in a law enforcement matter that states are perfectly capable of handling on their own.
That issue aside, House Republicans had proposed a straight-up reauthorization of the existing Violence Against Women Act. Even that generous offer didn't fly, losing in a 166-257 vote. Megan Whittemore, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, cut to the heart of the matter Tuesday when she said that in holding out for their expanded version of the law, "Senate Democrats have made it crystal clear they are more interested in protecting political issues than protecting women from domestic violence."
Instead of blinking, House Republicans could have insisted on passing their own version and taken the measure to conference, where they could have held out for the removal of what, when the situation is reversed, Democrats routinely dub "poison pills."
The Violence Against Women Act and its renewal had been in abeyance since the end of the last Congress over the same House-Senate disagreement. If House Republicans had stood their ground, perhaps it would have been the Democrats who blinked first and settled for a clean reauthorization. Under the circumstances, that's probably the best opponents of this sort of radical, gender politics could have hoped for.
A larger issue, though, is that the Republican majority in the House needs to learn to act like a majority -- and that includes realizing it shouldn't always be the first to blink in the face of legislative intimidation.
The Washington Times
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