BREAKING: House Republicans Backing Down On Violence Against Women Act

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After nearly a year of resistance that has damaged them politically with women voters, House Republicans have found a clever way to back down on the reauthorization of an expanded Violence Against Women Act, aides confirmed to TPM late Tuesday.

The original plan was for the Republican majority in the House to pass its version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization and then go to conference conference committee with the Senate. The Senate has already overwhelmingly passed a more aggressive bill, with protections for LGBT, Native American and undocumented women that have been at the heart of the dispute with House Republicans.

But all that changed Tuesday night. The Rules Committee instead sent the House GOP’s version of the Violence Against Women Act to the floor with a key caveat: if that legislation fails, then the Senate-passed version will get an up-or-down vote.The big admission implicit in this latest move is that House GOP leaders don’t believe they have the votes to pass their version of the bill but that the Senate version is likely to pass the chamber. So this way they’ll give House conservatives the first bite at the apple as a way of saving face and still resolve an issue that has hurt them politically.

Here’s how Democrats expect it to play out.

After the House finishes debating the GOP-version of the bill on Wednesday and Thursday, it will get a vote, but will fail to muster enough votes for passage due to conservative and Democratic opposition. So the Senate-passed bill will get a vote instead, and Democrats as well as a faction of more moderate Republicans will carry it to victory. Then it will go straight to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

“[Rules Committee Chairman] Pete Sessions laid it out in not so many words that this is what the majority’s plan is,” a House Democratic aide said Tuesday evening. “They’re anticipating that their version gets voted down. But it’s clear the Senate bill will pass with flying colors.”

A House Republican leadership aide didn’t dispute this characterization, but said that after the Rules Committee meeting Tuesday, the House “is still expected to take up a strong Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization later this week.”

After months of holding firm, Democrats are anticipating victory.

“We are on the cusp of a huge victory for every single woman who has been told over the past 16 months that they didn’t deserve VAWA protections,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) told TPM in a statement Tuesday night. “I applaud those moderate Republicans in the House who are ready to put politics aside and help us get this over the finish line. I know that the broad coalition of women and advocates who I’ve worked with over the course of this long effort have their fingers crossed and will be watching closely.”

The House Democratic aide piled on.

“This is the third time in the last two months that John Boehner has tried so hard to appease the crazy wing of his party, and it’s the third time that he’s failed to do it,” said the aide, referring to votes to avoid the fiscal cliff and to provide Hurricane Sandy relief, which passed with mostly Democratic support. “There’s no bridge that he can construct between what the tea party caucus wants in Congress and what the rest of his partners in government are open to doing.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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