But with Democrats unified in opposition and Republicans divided, the GOP’s alternative appears likely to fail.
The House would then move to a vote on a version adopted by the Senate this month on a broadly bipartisan 78 to 22 vote. It broadens the bill’s protections to gays and lesbians and expands the authority of tribal courts to prosecute non-native Americans accused in domestic violence cases on Indian reservations. It is supported by the White House and domestic violence advocates.
That bill is expected to pass on the strength of votes from Democrats and some Republicans — and over objections from a bloc of conservatives, an increasingly common pathway for successful legislation in a House roiled by divisions inside the GOP majority.
The outcome would send the Senate bill to President Obama for his signature, reauthorizing the landmark measure which has been credited with raising awareness of the problems of violence against women since it was first enacted in 1994.
“The majority of the country feels strongly this is something we ought to do,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a Native American. He prefers the Senate bill because of how it would deal with crimes committed on Indian reservations. “It’s better to resolve this and move on, rather than be hung up on the issue.”
VAWA has been reauthorized on noncontroversial and bipartisan votes twice.
But a third reauthorization stumbled on a partisan dispute last year after the House adopted a Republican bill in response to opposition expansions in VAWA’s protections that had been adopted by the Senate.
The two chambers could not work out differences in their bill before it expired with the end of the last Congress.
But after a campaign season marred by GOP missteps on the sensitive issue of rape and an election won by Democrats in part because of women’s support, Republican leaders are now eager to find a resolution on the issue.
When the Senate took up a bill similar to one that passed last year with 15 Republican Senate votes, its GOP support grew to 23 senators. A bloc of House Republicans then began urging their leaders to allow the bipartisan version to receive a vote.
“Elections have consequences,” said Terri O’Neal, president of the National Organization for Women, which is part of a broad coalition pushing the Senate version, explaining the shift.
“House Republicans look increasingly out of touch with the American public if they’re the place where these bipartisan bills come to die. I think wiser heads among their leadership recognize that,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).