Senate Democrats unveiled legislation Tuesday to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, dropping one component of their previous proposal in an effort to eliminate a procedural objection that House Republicans had used to oppose an earlier version of the bill.
The legislation to reauthorize the two-decade-old law died a slow, painful death last year because of House Republicans’ objections to extending coverage to gays, illegal immigrants and Native American women.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) used a procedural maneuver last year to dismiss the Senate-passed re-authorization as unconstitutional. The bill included a provision that would have raised some revenue by making more U Visas available to abused illegal immigrants. The Constitution provides that legislation to raise new revenue must originate in the House, Boehner observed, dismissing the bill.
Now, by eliminating that provision, Democrats close an escape hatch for Boehner and put pressure on him to address the substance of the legislation. The bill, cosponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), passed last year with 68 votes.
“In the interest of making quick and decisive progress, we introduce the bill today without that provision in order to remove any excuse for House inaction,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the sponsor of the bill. “We have retained other important improvements for immigrant victims in the bill we introduce today as part of our commitment to ensuring that all victims are protected.”
Both of Boehner’s options are problematic: accepting the expanded version requires going to bat for constituencies hostile to Republicans, while blocking it would put the already unpopular House GOP on the wrong side of a lopsided issue.
“The fate of the Violence Against Women Act still lays squarely on the shoulders of Eric Cantor and John Boehner,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
A Boehner spokesman did not immediately comment.
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.