DALLAS — If nothing else, the opposition thus far to reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act should silence those who say there’s no particular animus against females this election season.
The landmark measure had broad bipartisan support when it was created in 1994, and when it was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. But last month, every Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to oppose it.
On Thursday, six female Democratic senators and one Republican urged their colleagues to move quickly to reauthorize it this year. A vote is expected within weeks.
But given the recent party-line split at the committee level, bipartisan support doesn’t seem likely.
Each side blames the other for making the measure a political football. But that shouldn’t detract from the collective despair we should all be feeling about the gamesmanship over this particular issue.
The act provides billions of dollars to law enforcement agencies, nonprofits and others who prevent violence against women and help victims after it’s occurred.
Republicans who oppose the current reauthorization measure say they object to new provisions to broaden coverage for immigrants, gays and lesbians, members of Indian tribes and women in rural areas.
Democrats rhetorically ask why women in those groups should be any less deserving of protection and aid from violent assaults.
The question both political parties should ask is how much support the measure would have if the new provisions were stripped out? Would Republican lawmakers vote for it then, or has the base-line level of support shriveled?
In recent months, we’ve seen plenty of former friends abandon long-standing positions of support for women’s issues. First, Susan G. Komen for the Cure threatened to stop partnering with Planned Parenthood on breast cancer initiatives. Then Texas Gov. Rick Perry vowed to stop accepting millions of dollars of federal Medicaid money because some of it was funding women’s health services – but not abortion – at some Planned Parenthood clinics.
On Thursday, federal officials confirmed that the funding will stop, saying that Texas has overstepped its authority in denying funding to the long-standing provider of women's health services.
So now the political debate about women’s bodies has veered from abortion to contraceptive use to violence.
We may not have expected consensus on the first two issues, but the latter used to be unacceptable, no matter what your politics.