In case you needed another reason to feel disillusioned today, we live in a country where politicians are having a hard time passing the Violence Against Women Act because, this year, it strives to protect too many vulnerable women. Ah, America.
Some background: the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) never used to be partisan — it was annually reauthorized for 18 years until it expired in September 2011. Why? Because new protections were added into the Senate bill for undocumented immigrants, members of the LGBT community, and Native American women. That simply would not do for the House Republicans, who said the additions were "political" and passed their own bill without them. (Who reeeally cares about women from other countries — or, alternately, women whose families have lived in this country for centuries — who aren't straight? Silly Democrats!)
Since then, Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on the types of women who deserve government-sponsored protection. Only two of the 25 House Republican women said the House VAWA bill wasn't enough: Reps. Judy Biggert (Ill.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.). But now, both Republicans and Democrats are trying to convince the GOP's women to take action regarding VAWA. Today, all 12 Senate Democratic women signed a letter to all 25 House Republican women asking them to come together and support the Senate-passed VAWA bill before the end of the year. It reads:
"As mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and women intent on protecting the inclusive and bipartisan history of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), we are reaching out to you to ask for your help… In 2013 and beyond, the women of the House and Senate are primed to play an even larger role in guiding national policy and we should do so by working across party lines. Let's not wait any longer to take a critical step forward. We urge you join us by working with your party leaders to put women's safety first. Saving the lives of women is and should be above politics, and every one of us without regard to party should cast a vote for the safety of all women."
Some GOP women told the Huffington Post that they were open to changing their minds, including Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), who said it would be "inexcusable" if they didn't pass VAWA this year and that she thought "we should be very open-minded about the Senate provisions."
During a press conference, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said she was "completely baffled" as to why House Republican leaders wouldn't take the Senate bill to the House for a vote, specifically calling out House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who — ugh — might introduce an entirely new VAWA bill this week that we will all hate. She said: "In negotiations over this bill, [Cantor] has indicated that he is set to leave out protections for tribal women ... that he wants to leave off protections for the LGBT community once again, and that he will leave out many of the recent immigrants who find themselves with nowhere to turn when they are victims of domestic violence."
Cantor obviously didn't directly respond to that, but he is holding a meeting with all House Republican women tonight, during which, according to a statement, he will "stress the need to seek common ground across party lines to reach an agreement and pass VAWA as quickly as possible so we protect all victims of these horrendous crimes, and fully punish those who commit them." All victims? Ahem.
Republicans are going to look incredibly shitty if they can't pass this bill, given that they did a terrible job of convincing women and minorities to vote for them in November. Democrats won't look that great, either. Most importantly: if a VAWA bill doesn't pass in this Congress, we have to do this all over again next year, without the provisions of any iteration of the bill going into effect to help millions of abused women. This is the worst. Come on, Republican women. (And men? You have hearts too, yes?) Get it together! We need solidarity.