House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who has spent months working on the issue, defended the Republican plan: “Our goal in strengthening the Violence Against Women Act is simple. We want to help all women who are faced with violent, abusive and dangerous situations. ... We want them to know that those who commit these horrendous crimes will be punished.”
But the House proposal encountered quick and strong opposition from women’s groups, the White House, Democrats and some Republicans, and on Tuesday, the GOP leadership agreed to give the House a vote on the Senate bill. It passed immediately after the House rejected Cantor’s bill, 257-166, with 60 Republicans voting against it.
Vice President Joe Biden, who as a senator was instrumental in moving the 1994 act through Congress, praised Cantor for not standing in the Senate bill’s way. “He kept his word,” Biden said.
The GOP decision to step aside and let the Senate bill pass came after the party’s poor showing among women in last fall’s election and Democratic success in framing the debate over the Violence Against Women Act as Republican policy hostile to women. Obama won 55 percent of the women’s vote last November. Republican presidential candidates haven’t won the women’s vote since 1984, when Ronald Reagan held a 12-point lead over Walter Mondale among women.
The anti-violence bill should never have become partisan, said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a sponsor of the Senate bill. “That is why I applaud moderate Republican voices in the House who stood up to their leadership to demand a vote on the Senate bill.”
The Senate passed its bill on a 78-22 vote with every Democrat, every woman senator and 23 of 45 Republicans supporting it.