The House Passes the Senate’s Violence Against Women Act

with mostly Democratic votes, although 87 Republicans voted for it. As with the fiscal-cliff and Sandy-relief bills, the bill was passed in violation of the “Hastert rule”: It passed, that is, even though a majority of the Republican majority opposed it.

House Republicans had tried to pass a more conservative version of the bill but it ran aground in the same way that previous such Republican efforts have. Almost all the Democrats opposed the Republican bill because they didn’t want a final product to the right of the Senate bill, which meant that almost all the Republicans had to support the legislation. Many Republican legislators, though, were unwilling to support either the Republican or the Democratic versions of the bill. Some of them believed violence against women to be a matter for state and local governments to address, or thought that the Republican bill’s provisions regarding tribal courts, though an improvement on the Democratic bill, still went in the wrong direction. So the Republican bill couldn’t pass.

That left the Democratic bill. If it had not passed either, Republicans would be accused of blocking an effort to reduce violence against women, which most of them did not want to see happen. (Even many of those who voted against the Democratic bill didn’t want those headlines.) In the end, 27 Republicans voted against both versions of the bill and 54 voted for both.

The tradeoff looks like it’s going to endure. If most House Republicans feel strong pressure to pass a bill on some topic, but 20 or so Republicans refuse to vote for relatively conservative versions of those bills, then we will end up with more liberal policy outcomes. Those Republicans will, however, end up with voting records that more closely reflect their views of what public policy would be in an ideal world. And the Hastert rule will routinely be violated because it’s unworkable.

Update: The House Republican men were much more likely than the women to vote against both bills. One of the 19 House Republican women, Kristi Noem, voted against both.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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