Senate Republicans are steeling themselves for a potentially dangerous fight over the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, a bill New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer is pushing forward as a political tool.
In an effort to continue the narrative that Republicans are engaged in a “war on women,” Schumer has been executing plans to “fast-track” the bill to the floor in an effort to highlight Republican opposition, which is based on new provisions in the bill not included in the original VAWA.
“If we had just a straight reauthorization, it would pass 100 percent,” explained Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley and many of his Republican colleagues oppose portions of the bill such as eligibility for visas for illegal immigrants who claim to have been victims of domestic violence.
Republicans fear that provision could be an invitation to commit massive amounts of fraud, and are likewise concerned about the apportionment of funds.
However, Republicans are also well aware of the game Senate Democrats are playing and the risk of being seen as obstructionist and antagonistic toward women, minorities, and the middle class.
“This strategy is a cynical attempt to smear Republicans while distracting from the fact that their only solutions for the nation’s biggest problems are ones that Americans wholeheartedly reject,” a Republican congressional aide explained to TheDC.
The Democratic tactics have not been lost on the GOP leadership, either.
“At a moment of economic crisis, the number 3 Democrat in Senate, the Democrat in charge of strategy over there, is sitting up at night trying to figure out a way to create an issue where there isn’t one — not to help solve our nation’s problems, but to help Democrats get reelected,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a floor speech Thursday, in reference to Schumer.
Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions also blasted Senate Democrats on the Senate floor Wednesday for avoiding serious issues to play political games. He argued that Democrats are the ones distracting the American people away from the real issues of the day.
“[Senate Democrats] don’t want to talk about the things that are needed for this country, one of them is a budget. It has been over 1,000 days since this Congress passed a budget. Why aren’t we spending time on that?” Sessions said, recalling that Majority Leader Harry Reid said that he would not bring a budget to the floor this year.
“This country has never needed a budget more than it needs it today—never.”
Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl told CNN Thursday that while nobody opposes the reauthorization of VAWA, the add-ons to the legislation have Republicans concerned.
“If you follow the Judiciary Committee work on it, the questions had to do with the additions that have been made to this bill related to illegal immigrant visas, related to the additional sums of money and grants that would be available and the like,” he said, adding that with budget constraints the goal is to pass an operational bill.
Since its initial passage in 1994, VAWA has remained in effect through both Republican and Democratic congresses. Unlike that last reauthorization in 1996, however, this most recent iteration, sponsored by Democratic Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, includes provisions never before contained in VAWA.
Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley introduced his own bill without the controversial mandates. Democrats rejected Grassley’s bill, and Leahy’s passed committee last month in a party-line vote.
Though Republicans may shout they are not anti-woman or obstructionist, Democrats are already using the caricature to fund raise, according to CNN.
Grassley explained in a statement Thursday that Republicans just want their alternative heard.
“No doubt we need to consider the VAWA bill at the appropriate time, but there must be a fair process that includes consideration of our alternative that ensures more money goes to victims rather than bureaucrats and helps root out more of the well-documented fraud in the program,” he said. “The Republican leadership has no intention of blocking fair consideration of this bill.”
But despite Republican shouts, the “war on women” narrative continues moves forward.
“I really resent the implication by some of my Democratic friends that if you’re trying to improve the bill that somehow you are for violence against women,” added Kyl. “That’s reprehensible.”