WASHINGTON – House Republican leaders failed to rally support for their version of the Violence Against Women Act, so they decided to bring two versions of the legislation to a vote Thursday: the House bill and a Senate-passed measure favored by President Obama.
Earlier Wednesday, when Republicans tried to substitute their own bill for the Senate’s, some of their most conservative members balked over the costs and what they called federal overreach in the legislation. Moderates preferred the expanded protections of the Senate bill.
Rather than risk alienating women by continuing to work on the bill in a prolonged public debate, leaders decided to bring both versions to the floor.
The Senate measure, which expands the law to protect same-sex couples, immigrants and Native Americans, appeared to have more support. It passed that chamber two weeks ago on a 78-22 vote, with backing from every Democrat and 23 of 45 Republicans. The House version is more limited.
The legislation, first passed in 1994 and extended twice since then, is intended to prevent domestic violence and better prosecute offenders. States and local governments can get grants for transitional housing, hotlines, law enforcement training and legal assistance.
Nineteen Republicans encouraged House leaders to pass inclusive legislation quickly. One of the signatories, Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), said the letter probably played a role in leaders’ decision to schedule a final vote Thursday, skipping the standard committee process.
But some conservatives criticized that.
“This should have gone through the Judiciary Committee; this should have gone through the subcommittees. I don’t understand what aversion we have to actually going through regular order,” Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said during a monthly lunch with the GOP conference’s more conservative members.
Labrador and others at the “conversations with conservatives” lunch said House leaders negotiated too many deals behind the scenes instead of using the public committee process.
"There’s gonna be a lot of people that don’t like [the bill], but that’s the nature of any piece of legislation we do around here,” Runyan said.