A bipartisan Senate duo wrote a letter Tuesday calling on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to hold a vote on the upper chamber’s version of the Violence Against Women Act re-authorization. Boehner’s office promptly declined the request but said the House stands ready to go to conference to resolve the differences between the chambers’ bills.
The upshot: The measure remains in limbo, and Democrats will have a harder time including the expanded provisions aimed at protecting gay victims, illegal immigrants and Native Americans in the final version.
In the letter, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chief sponsor of VAWA, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) called on Boehner to take up the Senate version that passed 68-31 on a bipartisan vote late in April.
“Saving the lives of victims of domestic violence should be above politics. Yet politics seem to have gotten in the way of House passage of the bipartisan Senate Violence Against Women (VAWA) Reauthorization Act,” Leahy and Murkowski wrote. “We cannot afford to let another day go by. We urge you to swiftly allow for an up-or-down vote in the House on the Senate’s bipartisan VAWA Reauthorization Act. … We should not let politics pick and choose which victims of abuse to help and which to ignore.”
House Republicans responded to Senate passage by last month approving their own scaled-back version of VAWA reauthorization — which omitted those additional provisions — on a party-line vote. The measure has since fallen into legislative limbo, and the House GOP has capitalized on a procedural snafu with the Senate bill to demand that the upper chamber amend its version before conference negotiations — something they know won’t be easy for Democrats.
As far as Boehner is concerned, the bipartisan letter Tuesday changes nothing.
“Everyone agrees on the importance of renewing the Violence Against Women Act, and the House stands ready to begin conference negotiations to finalize a bipartisan House-Senate agreement,” said his spokesman Michael Steel via email.
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.