In a new TV ad, Mitch McConnell’s wife speaks directly to the camera and proclaims the Senate Republican leader’s support for laws to protect women from domestic abuse.
“Have you ever noticed how some liberals feel entitled to speak on behalf of all women? As if every woman agrees with Barack Obama. Alison Lundergan Grimes’ gender-based attacks are desperate and false. Mitch McConnell cosponsored the original Violence Against Women Act – he’s always supported its purpose. Mitch voted for even stronger protections than Obama’s agenda will allow,” says Elaine Chao.
The ad oversimplifies McConnell’s complicated history with VAWA, one in which he has voted against final passage and reauthorization of the act, as TPM reported last year during a less high-profile dustup in the Kentucky Senate race.
Chao’s assertion that McConnell cosponsored the original VAWA is accurate — he did so in 1991. But when the act came up for a vote in 1993, McConnell was no longer a cosponsor, and he voted against the final legislation.
In 2005, the legislation was reauthorized by a voice vote in the Senate. Then in 2012, McConnell voted against a Senate-approved bipartisan version of VAWA which stalled in the House. In 2013, a similar bill to renew and expand VAWA passed the Senate with 78 votes; McConnell was one of 22 senators to vote against it. That version was eventually taken up and passed by the Republican-controlled House and signed into law.
That’s the basis for which Grimes’ recent attack ad claims McConnell voted “two times against the Violence Against Women Act.”
Chao asserts that McConnell has “always supported [VAWA’s] purpose” and “voted for even stronger protections.”
The latter claim is debatable. In 2012, McConnell supported a scaled-back VAWA alternative pushed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). It largely renewed the expiring programs but omitted protections for LGBT women, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants who suffered from domestic abuse. At the time, Republicans hardly sought to argue that their bill included “stronger protections” for women — they instead said the tribal jurisdiction provisions in the bipartisan VAWA proposal were unconstitutional.
The Grimes campaign blasted the new ad in a statement on Tuesday. “Simply saying, ‘I’m married to a woman’ doesn’t speak loud enough. Your actions and record over 30 years in Washington indicate where and how you will stand up for women,” said Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton.
The new McConnell ad is an attempt to defend against relentless attacks by Grimes, the U.S. Senate nominee from Kentucky, portraying the longtime incumbent as anti-woman. A large part of the Grimes assault involves the Violence Against Women Act, a federal law to fund programs to combat domestic abuse. It isn’t the first time the McConnell campaign has been defensive over VAWA.
“Alison, supporting the Obama agenda isn’t pro-woman,” Chao says in the ad. “It’s anti-Kentucky.”
The Kentucky Senate race is neck and neck. McConnell is ahead by just 1 percentage point, according to the TPM PollTracker average.