Senate Republicans Oppose Expansions to Violence Against Women Act

Anti-women rhetoric in politics seems to have cooled down in the past few weeks, hence the lack of posts. As much as I enjoy posting, I also enjoy the idea of not having anything to post about because people are finally dropping this whole ridiculous debate. Alas, it was not meant to be.

The Violence Against Women Act is up for renewal in Congress this week. This bill has been around since 1994 and has always received a lot of bipartisan support, until now, what with this being the age of party politics trumping women’s health and all. Senate Democrats have been attempting to renew it, with extra provisions, since at least November, but have met with a great deal of opposition from the Republicans. The Republicans aren’t stupid, at least when it comes to political game-playing, and are calling out the Dems for trying to make them look bad. Of course that’s what the Democrats are doing, but let’s look at what they have added to the bill that gets the Repubs so angry that they’re willing to go on record opposing something called the Violence Against Women Act. According to the New York Times:

  • It would expand grant programs for law enforcement and domestic abuse shelters to rural areas and Indian reservations
  • It would increase the availability of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence
  • It would expand the definition of domestic violence to include stalking
  • It would provide training for court personnel to deal with domestic violence victims and situations
  • It would allow illegal immigrants who are victims of abuse to obtain temporary visas
  • It would expand the definition of domestic abuse victims to include same-sex couples

It doesn’t take much effort to see why the Republicans are worked up over the illegal immigrant provision. I understand that the immigration debate in this country is a touchy subject and I don’t claim to be an expert on it, so all I will say is that no woman (or man) should have to suffer violence because they are too afraid to report it to authorities. Domestic abuse is underreported as is, and if you add in the threat of deportation, how many immigrant women are keeping quiet, at the risk of their own lives? I would be interested to see if the Republicans have any alternatives to this provision or if they are just not interested in investing in the safety of these women.

Republicans also claim that the expansion of the bill to include same-sex couples “dilutes the focus on domestic violence by expanding protections to new groups.” I’m not sure I understand how providing protections for all Americans, not just straight ones, would dilute anyone’s focus. I can’t help but read this as a thinly-veiled attack on same-sex relationships.

Other complaints include vague cries of “unconstitutional provisions” and complaints against the lack of safeguards to prevent “significant waste” and “ineligible expenditures.” Fair enough, but without specific examples or a viable alternative proposal, I don’t see objections being anything more than attempts to obscure their opposition to the slightly more contentious aspects of the bill (gays and immigrants).

So yes, Republicans are crying “Meanypants” at the Democrats, with Senator John Thune saying “I suspect there’s a reason for bringing it [the bill] up now,” but all of the foot-stamping and finger-pointing in the world doesn’t conceal the facts (unless you watch Fox News). It doesn’t help when prominent conservatives, are saying things like this:

  • Janice Shaw Crouse, a senior fellow for Concerned Women of America, claimed that the legislation “creates an ideology that all men are guilty and all women are victims.”
  • Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative icon and all-around crazy person, called the Act “a slush fund used to fill feminist coffers” and said that it “promotes divorce, breakup of marriage and hatred of men”
  • Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, member of the Senate Judiciary committee, had these choice comments:
    • The legislation  “creates so many new programs for underserved populations that it risks losing the focus on helping victims, period.” Is he trying to say that we can’t help everyone, so we should just focus on certain groups that he deems more worthy of protection?
    • And my personal favorite, “violence against women except for these conditions is non-controversial.” So he’s all for protecting women against violence unless they are gay, illegal immigrants, or Native Americans. Gotcha.

Republicans, you can try to paint yourself as victims here, but when you have people on your side with sound bites like those, I find it hard to feel bad for you. Sure, the Democrats are playing a game and calling you out on purpose, but it seems to me like you deserve it.

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