WASHINGTON -- Despite a late-stage intervention by Vice President Joe Biden, House Republican leaders failed to advance the Senate's 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, an embattled bill that would have extended domestic violence protections to 30 million LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants and Native American women.
"The House leadership would not bring it up, just like they wouldn't bring up funding for Sandy [hurricane damage] last night," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a key backer of the Senate version of the bill, in an interview with HuffPost. "I think they are still so kowtowing to the extreme on the right that they're not even listening to the moderates, and particularly the women, in their caucus who are saying they support this."
In April, the Senate with bipartisan support passed a version of VAWA that extended protections to three groups of domestic violence victims who had not been covered by the original law, but House Republicans refused to support the legislation with those provisions, saying the measures were politically driven. Instead, they passed their own VAWA bill without the additional protections. In recent weeks, however, even some House Republicans who voted for the pared-down House bill have said they would now support the broader Senate bill -- and predicted it would pass if Republican leaders let it come to the floor for a vote.
"I absolutely would support the Senate bill," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told HuffPost in late December, speculating that other House Republicans, namely GOP congresswomen, "are very supportive of that."
Asked if he thought the Senate bill would pass in the House if it came up for a vote, Cole replied, "My judgment is yes."
Last spring, only two of the 25 House Republican women -- Reps. Judy Biggert (Ill.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.). -- opposed the House VAWA reauthorization, on the grounds that it didn't go far enough. But in the last couple of weeks, some others signaled they would now support the broader Senate bill.
"I think that we should be very open-minded about the Senate provisions," said Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.).
"I would be in that category of being open-minded to that," said Rep. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had been guiding House negotiations on the matter, huddling with Republican congresswomen last month and even working directly with Biden to try to get a deal. House-Senate talks appeared to have broken down over House Republicans' refusal to accept a key protection for Native American women that was included in the Senate bill.
"Majority Leader Cantor worked hard seeking to move the bill forward so we can protect victims and prosecute offenders," said Cantor spokesman Doug Heye.
Murray said she is "absolutely" planning to reintroduce the bill in 2013. If the Republican Party is concerned about its relationship with women, she added, it should "put that concern to action."
"They have the opportunity to do it now," Murray said. "They have the opportunity to take up this bill and show women and men that they understand that women's rights are important."
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