Republicans Battle ‘War on Women,’ Plan Tuesday Vote

by Betsy Woodruff

The House plans to vote on its version of the Violence Against Women Act on Tuesday. The move is the party’s latest pushback against the Democrats’ “war on women” narrative.

In recent weeks, Democrats have been using the House opposition to the Senate’s version of the domestic-violence bill as a key talking point in their campaign to win female support. But House Republicans sources say there are substantive reasons for pushing a different version of the legislation.

The Senate bill would open shelters to more lawsuits. Some argue that by banning discrimination against LGBT individuals, if an all-female shelter refused to house a gay man, he could potentially take it to court. Those kind of lawsuits could be devastating for the already cash-strapped shelters. The House GOP’s version doesn’t make shelters vulnerable to those kinds of lawsuits.

Under the Senate bill, some cases involving crimes allegedly committed by American men against Indian women on tribal lands would be heard in tribal courts. Many find that problematic from a constitutional standpoint, since tribal courts don’t have the same standards as American ones. The House version requires tribal courts to get certified to protect defendants’ constitutional rights. It would also let defendants opt out of facing tribal courts.

It’s also key to bear in mind that the House and Senate both passed versions of VAWA during the 112th Congress, and while the House named appointees to a conference committee which would be responsible for hashing out the differences between the chambers’ two bills, the Senate never named conferees — leading some to question their good faith on the issue.

“I think there are a lot of people who are trying to use this bill, unfortunately, as a political wedge, instead of trying to get solutions to protect women,” says Doug Heye, a spokesman for Representative Eric Cantor (R., Va.).

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