Likely GOP Senate candidates vote against VAWA, hand Democrats attack line

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
Font Size:

Several potential or declared Republican candidates for Senate in 2014 handed Democrats something of an early gift by voting against the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday.

Possible Senate contenders Reps. Steve King of Iowa; Tom Cotton of Arkansas; Bill Cassidy and John Fleming of Louisiana; Michele Bachmann of Minnesota; Kristi Noem of South Dakota; Michigan Rep. Justin Amash; and Georgia Reps. Tom Price, Phil Gingrey, Jack Kingston, Austin Scott and Tom Graves all voted no on VAWA.

Georgia Rep. Paul Broun, who has already announced his candidacy, also voted against the bill, which ultimately passed by a 286-138 margin. All 138 votes against reauthorizing VAWA came from Republicans.

VAWA provides further protections for women who are victims of domestic violence, and supports organizations that help them. But the bill’s reauthorization drew the ire of Republicans because of a new provision protecting Native American women, which would have given tribal courts the authority to prosecute non-tribe members for domestic abuse.

House Republicans proposed a modified bill that removed that protection, as well as new provisions that had been added by the Senate that specifically singled out illegal immigrant and LGBT women for protection under the bill.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor explained that the modified bill sufficiently protects all classes of women.

“We want to help all women,” he said.

That version of the bill failed, however, and the House proceeded to pass the Senate bill.

Democrats have gone after Republicans in the past for not supporting the reauthorization of the bill. North Dakota Republican Rep. Rick Berg got an earful last cycle, for example, after he declined to take a position on the bill. His opponent, now-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, held a number of campaign events on the importance of reauthorizing the bill. Berg ultimately lost Heitkamp, in a state that was expected to lean Republican.

Should the House Republicans who opposed the VAWA reauthorization run for Senate, they will likely face withering criticism for being part of what Democrats in 2012 repeatedly called the  “war on women.”

“I’m sure this vote made Karl Rove’s head explode,” one national Democratic strategist told The Daily Caller. “The GOP is finally trying to put VAWA behind them, and the last few folks willing to go down with the burning ship are the party’s potential GOP Senate recruits.”

King has already drawn fire for the vote from fellow Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley, the presumptive Democratic nominee in the race for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat.

“#VAWA passes House overwhelmingly >280 votes. A good day on the House floor,” Braley tweeted after the vote. “3 Iowans voted ‘yes.’ 1 voted ‘no.’ Any guesses?”

Follow Alexis on Twitter