Friday, April 27, 2012

Senate Vote To Support Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Bill Puts Conservatives Front and Center

Conservatives Just Don’t Understand Why a Law Protecting Women From Violence is Appropriate Government Policy

The role of government in many situations is clear.  A fundamental role of government indeed the most fundamental role is that it represents collective actions by the citizens of a political entity to protect those citizens against violence.  Given that women are highly vulnerable to violence compared to men, it would seem no one could argue with legislation that affords special protection to women from violent acts.

Of course those expecting such a law to pass are not familiar with Conservatives, who seem to believe that any and all actions of government are wrong.  So while the Senate has just passed a new version of the Violence Against Women law, it did so with some Republican support but against the wishes of Conservatives in the Senate.

The final vote, 68 to 31, including 15 Republicans who voted for reauthorization, belied the partisan maneuvering that preceded Senate action on the bill, which extended landmark legislation first passed in 1994 to give courts and law enforcement new tools to combat domestic violence. The latest version – the third reauthorization since 2000 – followed tradition and was drafted by a Democrat, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, and a Republican, Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho.

But it ran into a wall of Republican opposition in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and cleared the committee in February without a Republican vote. Amid partisan clashes over abortion and contraception, some Democrats saw the Violence Against Women Act as the next battle in what they framed as a Republican “war on women.”

Here is what Conservatives object to in the legislation.

House Republican women this week announced they would introduce a version of the violence act when they return from next week’s recess, with a final House vote expected by mid-May.

The House bill is likely to be stripped of three provisions that have incensed some conservatives. One would subject non-American Indian suspects of domestic violence to prosecution before American Indian tribal courts for crimes allegedly committed on reservations. Another would expand the number of temporary visas for victims of domestic violence who are illegal immigrants. The last would expand Violence Against Women Act protections to gay, bisexual or transgender victims of domestic abuse.

The issue with respect to trying defendants in American Indian tribal courts does seem like a reasonable objection, and it does not weaken prosecution or change the nature of the crime.  But notice the other two provisions that Conservatives object to and what they would do.  On the illegal immigration aspect Conservatives would refuse to allow alleged victims the protection of the United States, and sending them back to where they were possibly abused seems like just a cruel action.  As for denying protection to gay, bisexual or transgender victims, obviously the domestic violence those individuals may suffer is for Conservatives punishment for them leading their lives in ways that Conservatives object to.

So at the end of the day Conservatives may allow a version of the bill to become law, the political pressure being too great not to.  But based on their positions on this issue of domestic violence against the most vulnerable of people, no one need ever question their priorities, which is ideology and partisan politics over public safety.

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