Reauthorizing the once-bipartisan Violence Against Women Act used to be a matter of Senate routine, but it has now gone the way of debt-ceiling negotiations — into the trenches of partisan warfare. Reading recent reports of the coming Capitol Hill showdown on the VAWA, you would either conclude that Republicans are broadening their assault on women, or Democrats have politicized the bill with various poison pills involving LGBT rights, immigration and Native American communities. What gets lost in both explanations is the merits of the actual changes.
While VAWA has not yet faced a full Senate vote, all Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted in February against reauthorization. Democrats are clearly trying to use this to capitalize on the recent interest in Republican misogyny, which, legislatively speaking, has become mainstreamed in the party. Sen. Dianne Feinstein asserted on the Senate floor last week that “This is one more step in the removal of rights for women.” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shot back Thursday, citing a Politico article to suggest Sen. Chuck Schumer “is sitting up at night trying to figure out a way to create an issue where there isn’t one … to help Democrats get reelected.”