It’s been widely reported that house Republicans are in a difficult spot over the Violence Against Women Act, at a time when the battle over the female vote has intensified between the parties.
Now, with a high stakes vote on a version of the measure set for later today, things could get a bit harder: A female Republican Senator is joining with Democrats to call on House Republicans to drop their opposition to the Democratic version of the bill, which extends protections to same sex couples.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has added her name to a letter signed by Senator Patty Murray and 11 other Democratic Senators calling on John Boehner to pass the Senate version of the bill, which passed the Upper Chamber already with an overwhelming majority of 68 votes.
House Republicans have been maneuvering behind the scenes to assuage women’s groups who are angry over the House GOP vrersion of the bill, which is set to get voted on this afternoon. Republicans had previously insisted on a version that doesn’t include protections for immigrant and Native American women and for same sex couples. They have since floated an amended version in order to win the support of the women’s groups, but even that amended version reportedly didn’t include protections for same sex couples.
Now Murkowski and the dozen Dems are calling for passage of the Senate version, stressing its inclusiveness. Here’s the key part of the letter:
We should not let politics pick and choose which victims of abuse to help and which to ignore. Each previous reauthorization substantially improved the way VAWA addressed the changing needs of domestic violence victims by addressing challenges facing older victims, victims with disabilities, and other underserved groups. The Senate’s bipartisan VAWA Reauthorization Act continues this tradition by placing greater emphasis on training for law enforcement and forensic response to sexual assault, and by strengthening protections for all victims regardless of where they live, or their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
The key context here is that Murkowski has already broken with her party on another issue of importance to women: The Blunt amendment, which would have allowed employers to deny coverage for any medical service they find morally objectionable.
Murkowski at first voted for the measure, but subsequently said she regreted her vote, claiming that voters had come to see it as a vote against contraception for women.
Now, on VAWA, Murkowski is again implicitly rebuking a good chunk of her party, at a time when Democrats, the Obama campaign included, are on offense over the issue and see it as a good way to exacerbate the gender gap even further in the context of the presidential race.