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Republicans Considering Senate Bids Split on VAWA Vote

February 28, 2013

The House voted Thursday to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act by a more-than-two-to-one margin, but a number of House Republicans mulling Senate contests in 2014 joined the majority of their caucus in opposing the bill.

Most House Republicans in red states voted against the measure, including the majorities in the GOP delegations from Georgia and Louisiana, where multiple House members are considering running for the Senate.

The bill passed by the House on Thursday is identical to a bill that passed the Senate on Feb. 12. Some House Republicans attempted to pass their own version of the legislation -- which struck from the bill provisions affecting Native Americans and other groups -- but that measure failed by a wide margin.

A review of the votes showed most -- though not all -- of the "no" votes by GOP House members considered potential Senate candidates were from GOP-leaning states on the presidential level.

And not all House Republicans running for the Senate or considering running in red states opposed the bill. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was a leading Republican voice in convincing her party's leadership to allow a vote on the bill, even though the majority of Republicans voted against it. Capito is considered the frontrunner in the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

"The Senate passed a bipartisan VAWA bill which should become law as soon as possible," Capito said in a statement Tuesday. "Further delays in passing a bipartisan VAWA reauthorization would be a disservice to the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who rely on programs authorized by the legislation."

Notably, Republican Rep. David McKinley, who had been "tempted" to challenge Capito from the right but decided not to do so, also voted against the House bill and for the Senate bill.

Reps. Steve Womack and Tom Cotton -- named as potential GOP candidates against Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., opposed the Senate bill. "The Violence Against Women Act contains important provisions to deter and punish domestic violence and to protect victims," said Cotton, in a statement. "I could not support the legislation, however, because it subjects American citizens to Indian tribal-court jurisdiction without, in my opinion, adequate constitutional safeguards."

Georgia Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, Tom Graves, Jack Kingston, Tom Price and Austin Scott all voted against the bill. "Dr. Broun has been very consistent with his vote against renewing the Violence Against Women Act over the years," said Broun spokeswoman Meredith Griffanti. "While Dr. Broun abhors all domestic violence, he believes that under the Constitution this issue is the purview of state and local governments, and that it is best handled at that level. Additionally, at a time when we're looking to make serious spending cuts, Washington can't afford to spend $189 million more than what the President requested in funding for VAWA, and that's how much this legislation costs."

Graves spokesman John Donnelly highlighted his boss's support for the House GOP's bill. "Of the two bills before the House today to assist victims of domestic and sexual violence, Congressman Graves supported the stronger version, which ensured funding would be used more effectively and provided greater resources for law enforcement to protect victims and prosecute those who commit horrific crimes of abuse," Donnelly said.

In Iowa, GOP Rep. Steve King voted for the House bill and against the Senate bill. Rep. Tom Latham, who announced Wednesday he would not seek the Republican nomination, joined King in voting for the House bill, but the more moderate Latham broke with King and voted for the Senate bill.

A number of Louisiana Republicans are considering challenging Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu next year, and two of them voted against the Senate bill, including Reps. Bill Cassidy and John Fleming. Cassidy spokesman John Cummins said, "He was concerned the Senate version codified into law discrimination against faith based organizations, which are often on the front lines of caring for victims."

Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany, who is also considering a run, voted for both the House bill and the Senate bill.

Minnesota Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen voted for both the House bill and the Senate bill. Rep. Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, voted against the Senate bill. "Rep. Bachmann recognizes the importance of giving local law enforcement and nonprofit programs the resources they need to fight against domestic violence and sexual assault, which is why she supported the stronger House version of the Violence Against Women Act," Bachmann spokesman Dan Kotman told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

In North Carolina, where Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is considered vulnerable, the most prominent Republicans in the delegation were split. Rep. Patrick McHenry voted against the House bill and for the Senate bill. "The Violence Against Women Act provides critical support for victims and families of these horrible crimes," McHenry said, in a statement. "With 24-hour crisis response services, domestic violence shelters, and legal services for victims, the law has helped to drastically reduce these crimes."

But Reps. Virginia Foxx and Renee Ellmers voted against the Senate bill. "Violence against women is a tragedy and I had hoped to see the House VAWA reauthorization bill pass today to bolster prevention initiatives and ensure that every victim of sexual assault and domestic violence in this country receives the greatest protection in the future," said Foxx.

"Congresswoman Ellmers voted for the House substitute bill for the Violence Against Women Act," said Ellmers spokesman Tom Doheny. "This substitute bill would provide stronger protections to victims of violence, stop bureaucratic abuses, and make sure federal funds are going directly to the victims. Furthermore, it would have included provisions that fix the questionable parts of the Senate bill that decrease constitutional protections to Americans on Native American territory."

South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem, who hasn't ruled out a run for higher office, also voted against the Senate bill. A statement from Noem's office said she "fears that constitutional concerns surrounding provisions in the current bill could actually lead to delayed justice for women in Indian Country."

Democrats supported the bill unanimously, while 87 Republicans voted for the bill, compared to 138 "no" votes. Among GOP leadership, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor opposed the Senate bill, but Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan supported it. NRCC Chairman Greg Walden also voted for the Senate bill.

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