Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) summed up the problem with this week’s Republican-enabled expiration of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in a Saturday panel discussion with MSNBC host Melissa Harris Perry.
“The fact that the 112th Congress let VAWA expire doesn’t just mean that they’re politically opposed to some of the [proposed] expansions,” Sinema said. “It means women all across this country — right now, today — are living without these legal protections.”
House Republicans refused to take up a new version of the legislation this week, citing opposition to the expanded protections for Native American, LGBT and undocumented immigrant women offered in the version that passed in the Senate.
The influx of women in the newest Congress, Sinema said, would provide an opportunity to build the kind of coalition needed to renew the law.
“The truth is, there’s not a single piece of partisan ideology in that legislation,” she said. “There is nothing ideological about it. All women deserve protection from abuse, and that’s all this legislation says.”
However, Reason magazine Editor-In-Chief Matt Welch said, the Senate could have voted for the House version of the bill, which lacked the additional clauses, to keep it on the books. He also cited a New York Times article in which Republicans complained that the Democratic push to broaden VAWA was political gamesmanship.
“I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” Sen. Jeff Sessions said in the article. “You think that’s possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn’t support that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?”
But at the same time, the House’s version of the bill was opposed by not only Democrats, but by advocacy groups like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the American Bar Association and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence because of its limited nature. And as Harris-Perry’s show blog reported on Friday, the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women also criticized the House GOP’s reticence.
“We were all deeply disappointed that a final bill was not reached in the 112th Congress,” the task force said in a statement. “The U.S. House of Representatives continued to voice strong opposition to offering basic protections to certain vulnerable populations.”
It’s also troubling, Sinema said, that Cantor and Sessions say they support protecting women while opposing the idea of granting more women legal protection.
“Then you’re saying some women are better than other women,” she said. “The reality is that a woman who is being raped or sexually assaulted is a woman. Period. Whether she’s a tourist from France, whether she’s an undocumented person who is being abused by her boyfriend, or whether she happens to be a person who lives on tribal land.”
Watch Sinema and the panel on Melissa Harris-Perry discuss the issue, as aired Saturday on MSNBC, below.