WASHINGTON (CN) – Republicans and Democrats took frequent shots at each other for nearly six hours during a House Judiciary Committee markup meeting to amend the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization.
“This is an attack on women,” said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich, whose normally calm demeanor elevated to a state of agitation. “We’re marking up a bill today that purports to be a reauthorization of a bill against violence against women. But, in truth, [H.R.] 4970 is a regressive bill that actually sets us back. It does violence to the Violence Against Women Act.”
The Committee approved the bill by a vote of 17-15.
“Violence against women doesn’t occur along party lines, and neither should reauthorization of these programs,” said Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas. “But instead of working with Republicans in a bipartisan manner to protect women from domestic violence, rape and stalking, Democrats chose to place partisan posturing above the urgent needs of victims of violence.”
Committee Republicans passed every amendment they introduced, while nearly every amendment proposed by Democrats failed with the exception of three amendments proposed by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who proposed amendments to create domestic violence liaisons for Indian tribes and a national center for campus safety.
Though everyone agreed that an earlier version of reauthorization of the Act passed by the Senate was both noble and bipartisan, the debate over extending protections to illegal immigrants and Native Americans became heated.
“The concept in the law of VAWA is good public policy. It’s also good public policy that we understand that in immigrant communities there sometimes is a lawless element that preys on immigrants. Sometimes that lawless element is also immigrants – immigrant gangs in some instances,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas. Poe successfully amended the bill so that a victim must report a crime within a normal statute of limitations. The amendment passed unanimously.
“H.R. 4970 actually rolls back important protections for immigrant victims, putting them in a worse position than they are under current law,” said Rep. Scott. He cited a law that allows immigrants to apply for visa status without relying on their abusive spouses or parents. The bill, he says, allows immigration officers to contact the abusers, tipping them off to the fact that the victims are seeking government assistance.
“A violence against women bill should not do more harm to the victims that it purports to protect,” said Scott.
One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Fla., told the Committee of her own experience with an abusive husband before she became a deputy sheriff.
“I’m very sad to say that this bill is a step backwards, and although our colleague has a prior career as a deputy sheriff, it’s worth noting that the National Sheriffs Association opposes her bill,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.