Top Senate Democrats excoriated the competing House Republican version
of the Violence Against Women Act hours after it was unveiled Friday.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the author of VAWA, derided the legislation as "partisan" and said it omits critical measures designed to protect vulnerable populations like Native Americans, immigrants and the gay and lesbian community.
"Next week, the House of Representatives plans to revert back to its partisan version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act," Leahy said in a statement. "The Republican House leadership has decided to replace the Senate-passed version with a substitute that will not provide critical protections for rape victims, domestic violence victims, human trafficking victims, students on campuses, or stalking victims. This is simply unacceptable and it further demonstrates that Republicans in the House have not heard the message sent by the American people and reflected in the Senate's overwhelming vote earlier this month to pass the bipartisan Leahy-Crapo bill. A majority of Republican Senators -- and every woman serving in the United States Senate -- supported it."
Compared to last year's version, the new GOP bill reflects some movement in the Senate's direction but initial reactions from Democrats suggest that whatever nod House Republicans were trying to make toward compromise are not being well-received.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a leadership member and prominent VAWA advocate, declared that "House Republican leadership just doesn't get it" and that the added protections for women "are not bargaining chips ... to appease the far right in their party."
"This partisan bill is a non-starter in the Senate," Murray said. "It's time for moderate Republicans in the House to step up and finally force their leadership to stop ignoring the calls of women across the country. ... Until then, the leadership in the House will continue to be the only thing standing between 30 million women and the VAWA protections they deserve."
Democrats are in a strong negotiating position because their version passed the Senate on an overwhelming 78-22 vote. On top of that, women voters trust them more, and are likelier to punish House Republicans if VAWA fails to get reauthorized.
"I am confident that those of us who fought for an inclusive reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act earlier this month that responds to the true needs of victims will continue the fight to protect victims of rape, domestic violence, human trafficking, and stalking," Leahy said. "The decision by the Republican leadership of the House to take up a partisan substitute to the bipartisan, Senate-passed bill is an unfortunate step in the wrong direction and undermines our long-fought efforts to help these victims."