"The Senate's passed a bill, but they haven't sent it over because it has a blue slip problem," said House Speaker John Boehner at a Thursday press conference. "Our bill's over there. It'll be up I think to the Senate to request a conference."
He's referring to an obscure practice the House uses to kill Senate-originated legislation, if the measure raises revenue. The Constitution's Origination Clause requires revenue raising bills to have their first reading in the House -- not the Senate. A provision in the Senate's VAWA bill generates revenue by imposing a fee for visas that go to immigrant victims of domestic abuse.
Normally, the Senate can work around this requirement by amending House bills or by using House-passed revenue bills as vehicles for their own legislation. Senate Dems didn't regard the visa fee as a revenue provision and have thus fallen into a trap. For all intents and purposes they don't have a bill to bring to a conference committee with House Republicans. They can and may attempt to relegislate VAWA in a way that fulfills the origination requirements -- but out of deference to Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could significantly delay or completely block such an effort.
Alternatively, as a top Senate Democratic aide pointed out, House Republicans could simply drop their blue-slip threat, as they did for recent transportation legislation. But Boehner's not likely to agree to that unless Democrats give up something in return -- and at the expense of key Democratic constituencies.
"We're eager to resolve our differences between the House and Senate on the issue of domestic violence," Boehner said. "I think the bigger issue is whether Senator Schumer and his Democrat allies in the Senate want to come to an agreement on this bill, or whether they want to continue to attempt to use it as a political weapon in this year's election cycle."