WASHINGTON -- More than a dozen House Republicans sent a letter to their party leaders on Monday night urging them to "immediately" reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act with a bipartisan bill -- something the House failed to do in the last Congress.
"Now is the time to seek bipartisan compromise on the reauthorization of these programs," reads the letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), signed by 17 House Republicans. "VAWA programs save lives, and we must allow states and communities the opportunity to build upon the success of current VAWA programs so that we can help even more people."
The letter doesn't get into specifics and makes no mention of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) or Native American protections added into the Senate VAWA bill that drew House Republican opposition in last year's fight. But its tone suggests that at least this group of GOP lawmakers is open to considering the new provisions. The letter also gives a sense of real-world effects of Congress failing to reauthorize VAWA last year for the first time since the law's inception in 1994.
"It is unfortunate that states are already preparing for Congress' inaction. In New Jersey, for example, the state legislature recently passed a bridge fund bill to fill the void left by a lack of federal funds in the event VAWA is not reauthorized," the lawmakers write. "We believe a bipartisan plan to reauthorize VAWA is more important than ever."
The letter is signed by Republican Reps. Jon Runyan (N.J.), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Dave Reichert (Wash.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), David Joyce (Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Michael Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Jim Gerlach (Pa.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Rodney Frelinghuysen (N.J.), Leonard Lance (N.J.), Patrick Meehan (Pa.), Rodney Davis (Ill.), Tom Reed (N.Y.), Lee Terry (Neb.) and Michael Grimm (N.Y.).
House Republican leaders have been silent on how they plan to approach VAWA this year and have yet to introduce a bill. In the meantime, the Senate is poised to pass its bill with a broad, bipartisan vote on Tuesday. The main sticking point for getting the Senate bill through the House appears to be the same tribal provision that House Republicans wouldn't swallow last year.
A Cantor spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the GOP letter, or on House VAWA plans in general. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said only, "We are continuing to work with members, the Committee of Jurisdiction, and others to find the best way to protect American women and prosecute offenders.”