On the Return of VAWA: A Bad Sign for Republicans

Evelyn Crunden ’13
Features Editor

In a move that dealt a heavy blow to House Republicans, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), long considered to be a bipartisan topic and favored on both sides, has now been passed with its extension included. Initially rejected in January in what has been to date one of the most controversial moves made by Congress in recent years, VAWA was returned to its rightful place on Feb. 23, shockingly having managed to retain special LGBT, Native and undocumented provisions that allow for the protection of a greater number of women. Backed by unanimous Democratic support, only 87 Republicans joined their partners across the aisle in the endeavor.

It needs to be said, first and foremost, that VAWA should never have been a controversial topic. VAWA, like helping veterans and providing education, does something that on a fundamental level all Americans should be in support of: it protects women. The disagreements raised by Republicans in January, when VAWA failed to be reauthorized, were over the exact provisions now included: protections made with regard to Native women, lesbians, gay men (the act doesn’t only provide for women), transgender and undocumented persons. House Republicans specifically raised Cain over the issue, and ultimately the document was shelved. Thanks to the determination of several Democrats, however, it is now back and in its rightful form – but the show of partisanship and politicking that accompanied that effort has been not only disappointing, but incredibly worrisome.

The minority of Republicans who voted for the act is telling: in the Senate, the minority in the House was echoed, as the 22 opposing votes came exclusively from Republicans. The move is a frightening indicator of an overwhelmingly partisan and stubborn mentality, but it also begs the question of Republican security. The GOP has long been in trouble, a fact reinforced by the 2012 elections and the backlash many within the party have faced, including a mass exodus of many of its more moderate members. Yet VAWA is a perfect example of why the party is suffering: few headlines are less appealing than the average “Republicans lead movement against re-authorizing Violence Against Women Act,” as many of those Republicans learned in January.

Perhaps most telling of all is the current state of affairs. Democrats are victorious, not only with regard to the reauthorization of the act, but with regard to its provisions. Many had assumed that in order for VAWA to see light again, many of its newer components would have to go. That, as we have clearly seen, is not the case, and we now have a stronger and more appealing document. In light of the fact that Native women face an overwhelmingly high rape statistic, LGBTQ individuals are barely covered by the law as is (with specific emphasis on the transgender community) and undocumented workers are among the most marginalized members of our society, it would seem relatively clear that the VAWA additions serve the country in a much greater capacity than the act did previously. Yet, many were in opposition, and, as they learned recently, that opposition was not generally affirmed by their constituents.

Still, House Republicans did get a slight blow in: passing the bill in the face of the “sequester’s” much-discussed arrival, a move heavily condemned by many Democrats who already fear cuts in spending to the areas covered by VAWA. Programs helping victims of domestic violence, will, for example, take a severe hit. Yet this tiniest of victories is not enough to detract from the clear loss VAWA’s return represents for Republicans. As the American people work toward a more inclusive and nationally affirmative structure, it seems many in the GOP are having difficulty keeping up. If the party would like to remain relevant, perhaps now is the time to re-evaluate a few things.

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