In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, which was a no-brainer for both Republicans and Democrats. Who wants to grab headlines as the party that is not against beating women? Well, no one, but in 2012, thanks in part to a canny bit of maneuvering by Democrats, Republicans are.
The act is up for renewal and, as the Times reports, it’s facing “fierce opposition from conservatives” in the Senate. The new version of the law contains expansions that violate certain principles that congressional Republicans feel they just can’t sacrifice:
Republicans say the measure, under the cloak of battered women, unnecessarily expands immigration avenues by creating new definitions for immigrant victims to claim battery. More important, they say, it fails to put in safeguards to ensure that domestic violence grants are being well spent. It also dilutes the focus on domestic violence by expanding protections to new groups, like same-sex couples, they say.
So the effective party line, then, becomes that they support no violence against women, but immigrants and gay people? Eh, not their problem! Still, in a moment where women (and not just Democratic women) feel like the GOP has been attacking certain core rights of theirs, the subtle nuances of fiscal policy that Republicans are citing in their opposition aren’t going to do much to convince women that the party just doesn’t really care about them any more. Plus, there are plenty of conservatives who want to make opposing the act about women’s issues specifically. Phyllis Schlafly, for instance, referred to the act as a “slush fund for feminism” and said that it promotes divorce.
It’s great timing and optics for the Democrats — especially in an election where women are swing votes — and Republicans know it. “Obviously, you want to be for the title,” Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri said. “If Republicans can’t be for it, we need to have a very convincing alternative.” Is the “Shooting Ourselves in the Foot Act” taken? But Senate Republicans don’t seem opposed to that kind of violence, either.