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House GOP Unwilling to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. (Starley Shelton / Flickr)

While Republican lawmakers have attempted to push through a vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination amid multiple sexual assault allegations against him, none of the party’s members have signed on to support a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expires at the end of September.

Democratic legislators have joined women’s rights and anti-domestic violence groups in calling for the law to be fully reauthorized and strengthened with proposals put forth in a version sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), while Republican leaders want VAWA to be extended only until December 7 as part of the House’s stopgap spending bill.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has not called for a vote on a full authorization of the the bill, despite calls to do so, including from 46 members of his own party, as well as Democratic leaders and more than 50 attorneys general.

“Republicans’ decision to include only a short-term VAWA reauthorization in the must-pass minibus spending bill is nothing short of an abdication of our responsibilities to women in our country,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter to Ryan.

Jackson Lee’s bill includes a provision to make it easier for police to confiscate guns from domestic abusers, more funding for rape prevention programs, and eviction protections for victims living in public housing.

“We’re really hoping Congress takes seriously the importance of reauthorizing it with some key enhancements that we’re collectively asking for and a three-month extension does not get that work done,” Terri Poore, policy director of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, told the Washington Post.

VAWA has been reauthorized three times since the landmark legislation, which was the first federal law to combat domestic violence and has provided grants for victims’ services and prevention programs, was first passed in 1994—always with bipartisan support. As of Tuesday, 163 Democratic members of the House and zero Republicans had signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

“It’s been really sad to me and I really hope before it is too late we will see members of Congress who have proclaimed support for survivors connect it to VAWA,” Jess Davidson, executive director of End Rape on Campus, told the Post. “I think that allowing VAWA to be brought to the brink like this when our country is having such an important national conversation to me really shows that Congress is not as with survivors of sexual assaults as they claim to be.”

On social media, a number of critics connected Republicans’ insistence on confirming Kavanaugh regardless of at least two allegations against him, and the hostility the party has shown toward his accusers, with its refusal to fully reauthorize VAWA.

Julia Conley / Common Dreams

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