Politics
Vice President Joe Biden arrives at the Town Hall in Exeter, N.H., Thursday, April 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Vice President Joe Biden arrives at the Town Hall in Exeter, N.H., Thursday, April 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)  

Biden suggests GOP opposition to Dem. bill will spur domestic violence

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Vice President Joe Biden suggested on Wednesday that the GOP’s opposition to the Democratic version of a domestic violence bill will give the green light to male violence against women.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed in 1994 and was reauthorized in 2005. Approval of an updated law is stalled because Republican and Democratic senators disagree over what provisions should be added to the law.

“Just ask yourself, what message does it send to our daughters, to every women imprisoned in their own homes … if the law is not reauthorized,” Biden declared today at a White House meeting of feminists and groups that are funded by the law.

Social opposition to male abuse of women “became part of our social fabric, our social culture,” because of the 1994 law, Biden said. ”Just imagine the impact on the moral disapprobation of society if this Congress refuses to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.”

“Even those [GOP] guys and women opposing this [expanded Democratic version], I think, in their hearts, they know this is the right thing,” Biden said.

Republican opposition to the expanded Democratic bill can be overcome, Biden announced, partly by citing the senators’ own daughters and wives. “We have to appeal to the better angels of our friends up on the Hill,” he said.

“Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act isn’t partisan,” said a statement from Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is pushing the GOP’s reform bill. (RELATED: More on Joe Biden)

“Republicans are firmly committed to reauthorizing VAWA … [but] the bill that cleared the Judiciary Committee failed to address some fundamental problems, including significant waste, ineligible expenditures, immigration fraud and possible unconstitutional provisions,” Grassley said.

“Senator [Kay Bailey] Hutchison and I are working on an alternative to the VAWA bill that will both strengthen important provisions and fix weaknesses in the committee-passed bill,” Grassley explained. “It maintains adequate funding authorization, without adding to the budget deficit … and it focuses resources on helping victims.”

GOP advocates say that Democrats are pushing controversial measures in their draft bill — and are opposing the GOP’s modest reforms of the existing version — partly because they want to paint the GOP as hostile to women.

For example, Democrats added a section that would award 5,000 residency visas per year to illegal aliens who say they are victims of domestic violence. Democrats also added controversial sections that would allow Indian tribal courts to try non-Indians, would pressure universities to set up tribunals for sex-related disputes on campus, and would require one-size-fits-all police intervention in diverse domestic arguments.

Democratic senators have also announced their opposition to the GOP reform bill that would tighten oversight of grants to community groups and would establish the first set of basic legal rights for people accused of domestic violence.

Under current law, people — who are mostly men — who are accused of domestic violence have few legal safeguards or rights, even when they face imprisonment, fines, loss of property and loss of access to their children.

For example, accusers can get federally-funded lawyers, but defendants don’t get federal aid.

Defendants also lack many standard legal rights available to criminals and defendants in civil suits. For example, immigrants spouses who accuse their spouses of domestic violence can get permanent visas, while their spouses can’t confront them in court.

“There’s no equal protection,” said Teri Stoddard, program director at Stop Abusive and Violent Environments. “I know many, many people who have been falsely accused — both men and women — [and] because they don’t have that equal protection, lose everything — their home, car, job and mental health,” she said.