Outside the House, another outspoken Republican, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, pointed the finger squarely at his party and the Speaker of the House:
There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner . . . This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. . . . We respond to innocent victims . . . , not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. Last night, politics was placed before oaths to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.
VAWA, as it's known, has been an undeniable success since signed into law in 1994 by President Clinton under the sponsorship of then Senator (now Veep) Joe Biden. The incidence of domestic violence has dropped 67% from 1993 to 2010, and, according to the White House, from 1993 to 2007, "the rate of intimate partner homicides of females decreased 35 percent and the rate of intimate partner homicides of males decreased 46 percent.”
The House GOP, led by its Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, opposed various elements of the VAWA-extender bill that passed overwhelmingly in the Senate: the bill's provision of domestic violence protections to members of the LBGT community and undocumented immigrants, and a section that gives American Indian tribes jurisdiction over non-Native defendants in cases alleging domestic or dating violence.
The House version that purported to reauthorize VAWA (HR 4970) would have harshly restricted the immigration-related protections of the law. As the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence against Women explains, there are several key failings of HR 4970:
safety for vulnerable victims by imposing a stricter standard for approval of VAWA cases than for other forms of humanitarian relief under immigration law.
Section 802 imposes arbitrary and unreasonable barriers for victims, and undermines the law enforcement purpose of the U visa, by narrowly restricting the circumstances in which law enforcement certifications can be issued.
Section 806 discourages crime victims from cooperating with law enforcement, especially in complex or dangerous criminal investigations or prosecutions, and eliminates stability for vulnerable crime victims by terminating their eligibility for permanent residence.
Section 814 burdens victims and existing state criminal court processes addressing domestic violence by discouraging plea bargaining. Because this provision will allow evidence outside the criminal conviction record in determining if someone is deportable due to a domestic violence conviction, it will be impossible for defendants to know whether to accept a plea. The resulting additional criminal trials will result in more victims being forced to face their abusers in criminal cases and most likely, more abusers who do not face any type of conviction when victims are fearful of appearing in criminal cases.
Sections 803 and 804 . . . omit critical amendments that were included in S. 1925 [the Senate bill] to prevent serial abuse and exploitation of so-called “mail-order brides” and other immigrating foreign spouses and fiancé(e)s of US citizens, as well as abuse of the visa system.
Where is the outrage over VAWA? With Republicans claiming to have heard and now to understand the increasingly pro-female and pro-immigrant voices of the new electorate, the VAWA debacle suggests that the GOP is still clueless. Are the "innocent victims" of domestic violence any less deserving than the post-Sandy constituents who will soon get relief?