The fight over the Violence Against Women Act is just about to get interesting. The Leahy-Crapo bill passed in the Senate last week by a vote of 69-31. Never before have there been so many dissenting votes on VAWA, and the bill got no Republican votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In order to become law, the bill must pass the House of Representatives with its Republican majority. So what will be the fate of Leahy-Crapo there? That remains to be seen, but it’ll likely face stiff competition from a domestic violence bill authored by Republican House members whose lead sponsor is Sandy Adams of Florida. Read about it here (Washington Times, 4/25/12).
The House Republican bill should be prepared soon and be ready for debate and a vote in the House by mid-May.
Of course Democrats in the House will have their own version of Leahy-Crapo, so the first item of interest will be whether they have the votes to pass it. Since the 2010 elections, House Republicans have done little to advance Democratic legislative priorities, so it’ll be interesting to see if, in this election year, VAWA is an exception. Again, in the Senate, Republicans largely opposed the new bill, election year or no.
But many of those Republican Senators aren’t up for re-election this year, so their vote was to a great extent, a free shot. House members aren’t so lucky. Will Republican House members feel themselves forced into voting for a defective bill that does little to stem the incidence of domestic violence, promotes waste and fraud, misrepresents the truth about domestic violence and sharply curtails constitutional rights?
My guess is that they’ll line up behind Adams’ bill. That way they’ll be able to claim (rightly) that they oppose domestic violence, just not the Leahy-Crapo fiasco. If Adams’ bill passes the House, it’ll face reconciliation with the Senate bill, at which point things should get very interesting.
That’s because the two bills likely will have very different takes on just what DV is, who perpetrates it, who’s victimized by it, how best to prevent it, how best to treat victims and perpetrators, how to ensure funds are spent appropriately, how to maintain constitutional protections for the accused, etc. In other words, because of the competing House and Senate bills, we may at long last have some semblance of a national debate about the realities of domestic violence and how to deal with it.
We’ve never had anything like that before and the results could work wonders. I don’t for an instant believe that such a debate will work miracles, that suddenly the scales will fall from our eyes and we’ll address DV the way we should have all along. But if the House bill contains anything like what I think it will, the ensuing debate will open many eyes and forever change the way the public views domestic violence.
In short, with a bit of luck, we may see the Joe Biden’s of the world, with their false and misleading notions of DV, finally shoved to the sidelines. I may be too optimistic, but there’s just a chance that we’re about to see the domestic violence industry’s bluff called. If so, it’ll never recover. That’s because it’s always traded in disinformation about DV for the purpose of lining its own pockets and promoting a radical view of men and families that’s dramatically at odds with the truth.