Senate Democratic women are renewing their call for Republicans to drop their opposition to expanded provisions in the Violence Against Women Act re-authorization, painting the GOP into a corner on a red-hot political issue.
Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) held a Capitol press briefing Wednesday to announce that the Democratic-led measure already has 61 cosponsors — suggesting Republicans lack the votes for a filibuster — and to lament continued opposition from some Republicans.
“It really is a shame that we’ve gotten to this point,” Murray said, “That we even have to stand here today to urge our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to support legislation that has consistently received broad, bipartisan approval.”
Feinstein said that the bill “came out of the Judiciary [Committee] on a partisan basis, and that is regretful. I hope that will not be the case on the floor.”
Top Republicans have made clear they do not oppose re-authorizing VAWA as it exists, and have offered counter-legislation that would do so. Their opposition is driven by additional provisions to accommodate same-sex couples and undocumented immigrants. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has accused Democrats of “manufacturing another partisan, political crisis, because in actuality, there is no concern that the VAWA will go away.”
Democrats counter that the new provisions are important. “It’s unfortunate that [in 2012] anyone would like to choose who qualifies for that assistance,” Murray said Wednesday.
The push comes amid an election-year battle for women voters as Republicans seek to repair the damage they incurred by proposing to allow employers to limit female employees’ access to contraception and to cut funding for women’s health. Senate Dems are portraying GOP opposition to expanding VAWA as part of a theme.
“Republicans are returning to the playbook of obstruction,” Murray said. “Women in America cannot afford political theater on this issue. Not on this issue. Their lives depend on it.”
The Democratic senators said the Senate should re-authorize VAWA as soon as possible. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has not yet scheduled a vote, though he’s expected to turn to the issue shortly.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.