Five minutes into a House Judiciary Committee mark-up of the GOP's Violence Against Women Act, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) called the bill a "flat-out attack on women" for eliminating protections for immigrant women, Native Americans and the LGBT community.
"This bill is a move backwards," Conyers told the committee. "I can assure you, you will not get the vote of the Democratic side of this committee because it is a step backwards and a flat-out attack on women."
The comment drew audible sighs and one "Come on!" from Conyer's Republican colleagues, who are tired of being accused of waging a "war on women."
The congressman went on to list the various key provisions that have been stripped from the bipartisan, Senate-approved bill, which protected several minority groups, including immigrants, LGBT victims and Native Americans. Namely, the GOP draft eliminates existing confidentiality protections for immigrant women who have been abused, blocks a pathway to citizenship for immigrant witnesses who cooperate with police on domestic violence cases, and strips the protections for LGBT and Native American victims included in the Senate version.
Conyers also noted that The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 diverse civil rights groups, opposes the House GOP version of the bill for its lack of those provisions.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.), the sponsors of the bill, defended their version, noting that it "enhances" immigration laws by preventing undocumented victims from faking domestic abuse in order to get citizenship.
"Fraud and abuse in the U.S. immigration system must be stopped," Smith said. "Immigrants who perpetuate fraud in order to get visas or U.S. citizenship devalue U.S. immigration laws and hurt legitimate victims who are the intended beneficiaries of the generous programs we have established."