In a series of moves Wednesday that effectively isolate House Republicans, a bipartisan group of senators and House Democrats unveiled companion bills to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
The two bills, a House version and a Senate version, are identical in re-authorizing the domestic violence legislation and in expanding coverage to protect gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans. They were simultaneously unveiled Wednesday in the House and Senate during back-to-back press conferences by House Democrats and the Senate group.
The Senate Republicans flanking Democrats were Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) — all VAWA co-sponsors.
“This is not a partisan issue,” said Collins. “It cannot be a partisan issue.”
“As you can see from the representation here,” said Crapo, “it’s on a bipartisan basis that we have support for this in the Senate.”
The measure to reauthorize VAWA failed last year amid House GOP resistance to expanding coverage to abused LGBT, undocumented immigrant and tribal populations.
“Absolutely it doesn’t matter what your background is as a victim,” said Ayotte, a former prosecutor. “I am hopeful that the Senate will take this up very quickly, that the House in turn will pass it quickly, and we will make sure the Violence Against Women Act is re-authorized.”
Both the House and Senate versions of the legislation unveiled Wednesday omits a provision to increase the number of U Visas available for abused illegal immigrants. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) last year refused to take up the Senate bill, observing that the Constitution requires legislation that raises revenues to originate in the House.
“We took that out so there’s no blue slip question here. They said that was [the reason they didn’t take it up],” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chief sponsor of VAWA. He said he believes that “there is a strong willingness to move forward” in the House.
Boehner’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The re-authorization passed the Senate with 68 votes last year but stalled in the lower chamber after House Republicans approved their own scaled-back version on a party line vote. Now the pressure is back on and the omission of the visa component deprives them of an escape route.
“We’re going to get it done,” said Crapo.
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.