Republicans are looking for any excuse to stall or kill domestic violence legislation

The federal reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has fallen victim to political bickering, with the House of Representatives and the Senate refusing even to consider the versions passed by each other, the Idaho Statesman reports.

Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo, a sponsor of the Senate version, said it was pure gridlock, and he's not sure how the standoff will be resolved. "I think there's a bit of a stare-down going on there with the House leadership and the Senate leadership," Crapo said in an interview. ... The gridlock is another sign of Congress' inability to do much of anything but bicker this year. This is the third time the Violence Against Women Act has been up for reauthorization since 2000 and it has never been controversial before. The landmark 18-year-old law includes measures to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence; among other things it provides short-term housing for abused women and grants for law enforcement staffing and training.

Here is the background:

A critical federal measure to assist victims of domestic violence has passed in the United States Senate in March. Idaho Senator Mike Crapo joined with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) in introducing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), S. 1925.

“I am a long-time champion of the prevention of domestic violence because I have seen the impact of this abuse in Idaho,” Crapo said. “The Act provides critical services to victims of violent crime, as well as agencies and organizations that provide important aid to those victims.”

Crapo noted that VAWA has been the centerpiece of the nation’s commitment to end domestic, dating and sexual violence for nearly eighteen years. The measure provides access to legal and social services for survivors of domestic violence, and provides training to law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, attorneys and advocates to address these crimes in our nation’s communities.

“Last year in Idaho, twenty-two people were killed by a domestic partner,” Crapo added. “Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Nearly one in ten high school students nation-wide were hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend. Future tragedies must be prevented. While we may not all agree on the specifics of this reauthorization, all of us agree that we must end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States.”

The widely-supported legislation, which passed the senate 68 to 31, improves existing programs to address evolving needs in the fight against domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. VAWA provides tools to prevent domestic violence homicides by supporting training to those law enforcement officers, victim service providers and court personnel who are working on the frontlines to eliminate domestic violence. The legislation also promotes accountability to ensure that federal funds are used for their intended purposes, and consolidates programs and reduces authorization levels to address fiscal concerns while focusing on the programs that have been the most successful.

The House version took direct aim at immigrant victims:

The House passed its own version last week stripping out the new provisions, drawing a veto threat from President Barack Obama, who said it didn't do enough to protect battered immigrants, Native Americans or gays. The White House said in a statement that the House version took "direct aim at immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault" and jeopardized victims by placing them "directly in harm's way."

The House now refuses to negotiate over the Senate version of the bill, saying it includes fees associated with visas for immigrant abuse victims and that a clause in the Constitution requires all bills that raise revenue to originate in the House.

Further reading: Leahy: House Should Support Senate Bipartisan Bill To Support ALL Victims Of Violence.

Few laws have had a greater impact on the lives of women in this country than the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). By shining a light on the insidious crimes of domestic and sexual violence, this law’s initial passage nearly 20 years ago sent a powerful message that violence against women would no longer be tolerated. The days of dismissing these crimes with a joke or a shrug were over. The resources, training and law enforcement tools provided by VAWA transformed the criminal justice and community-based response to abuse. It gave support and protection to the victims who for generations had been blamed, humiliated and ignored.

With each reauthorization of this landmark law, Congress has repeatedly shown its bipartisan commitment to ending domestic and sexual violence by building on the protections in the initial legislation and expanding the reach of VAWA to meet the remaining unmet needs of victims. - Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act Of 2012

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said this week that the Republicans who controlled the House were engaged in "blatant obstruction" of the bill.

"The truth is Republicans are looking for any excuse to stall or kill this worthy legislation," Reid said in a speech on the Senate floor. "And American women aren't fooled."