A Rare Bipartisan Moment

Mar 1 2013 @ 1:42pm

Yesterday, the House finally passed the Violence Against Women Act, which had expired in early 2012. Reauthorization of the law was delayed by the inclusion of measures related to the protection of Native American and LGBT women. Steve Benen points to the significance of the bill’s passing without support from the majority of House Republicans:

[U]nder modern Republican norms, the Speaker only considers legislation that enjoys “majority of the majority” support — if most GOP House members oppose a measure, it won’t even be considered, whether it can pass the chamber or not. The non-binding rule is great for party discipline, but lousy for democracy and governing. For Boehner’s part, the Speaker had long believed in enforcing the “Hastert Rule,” but he’s finding far more flexibility on the issue than we’re accustomed to seeing. When it was time to approve the “fiscal cliff” deal, Boehner ignored the rule to pass a bipartisan Senate plan. When he needed to pass relief aid to Hurricane Sandy victims, he bypassed the rule again. At the time, the Speaker said these were isolated incidents that wouldn’t be repeated, but here we are again — most of Boehner’s caucus opposed the Violence Against Women Act, but he brought it to the floor and passed it anyway.

To reiterate a point from several weeks ago, this may seem like inside baseball, but it’s extremely important. If Boehner, in the name of getting stuff done, is open to bringing important bills to the floor, and passing them with mostly-Democratic support, there’s an opportunity for real governing in the near future.

Amanda Marcotte puts Republicans who voted against the bill in the hot seat:

[A]ll the Republicans who voted against VAWA in the Senate were men—all the female Republican senators voted for it. Then you have the nine Republican congressmen who declared that there was no version of VAWA they would support. Rep. Tom McClintock of California justified his resistance in 2012 by calling VAWA “a feel-good measure” and objecting to how the bill supposedly hamstrings “judges who are attempting to resolve and reconcile highly volatile relationships.” It is true, as I reported at the American Prospect, that VAWA puts an emphasis on separating victims from their abusers instead of trying to patch things up, but that’s because the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that this strategy works better at keeping victims safe. Which is the point.

Alexis Levinson thinks that those who opposed the bill will probably pay a price:

Democrats have gone after Republicans in the past for not supporting the reauthorization of the bill. North Dakota Republican Rep. Rick Berg got an earful last cycle, for example, after he declined to take a position on the bill. His opponent, now-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, held a number of campaign events on the importance of reauthorizing the bill. Berg ultimately lost [to] Heitkamp, in a state that was expected to lean Republican. Should the House Republicans who opposed the VAWA reauthorization run for Senate, they will likely face withering criticism for being part of what Democrats in 2012 repeatedly called the “war on women.”