THE BLOG
02/12/2013 03:00 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2013

The Clock Starts Now: Women Demand House GOP Action on VAWA

The Republican Party lost big last November. From Mitt Romney and Todd Akin, to Joe Walsh and Allen West, GOP standard bearers were sent packing by women voters who rejected their out-of-touch, Mad Men-style platform. And ever since, Republicans have frantically tried to cover up their anti-woman policies with deceptive new messaging. They're so transparent that I would laugh, if I didn't think they were so dangerous.

Let's take a look at the most recent example. Last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave a speech called "Make Life Work," to try and soften the party's image. He talked about education, healthcare, and the economy, and described a vision for the future defined by compassionate conservatism. But his message was brutally hypocritical, because he is the chief opposition to legislation essential to "making life work" for women across the country -- the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

The Republican Party has plenty of backward policy positions, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this one. VAWA is an important part of promoting the health, safety, and economic security of American women, one in four of whom will experience intimate partner violence in her lifetime. This wildly successful law has already reduced the rate of domestic violence by 67 percent, but there is still work to be done. An estimated 1.3 million women are assaulted by their partners each year, and lose almost 8 million days of paid work. And 15.5 million children who currently live in violent homes are more likely to experience health problems and do poorly in school.

Until recently, VAWA had always had bipartisan support because it's an effective and compassionate solution to a pressing problem. We can't afford to wait any longer to pass a new, expanded version that will build on the success of the old, and address the diverse challenges that victims face. But Cantor and his Republican colleagues in the House already killed discussion on the bill last year, and now that it's back they are probably going to block it again. The reason? They don't want to extend protections to LGBT, immigrant, and Native American victims, who all find it extremely difficult to access services.

House Republicans are picking and choosing which women are worth saving, and holding all victims of violence hostage in the process. But no one, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexuality, should be assaulted or killed because the GOP thinks they don't deserve protection. They're using discrimination as an excuse for negligence, and that's not a position Americans can tolerate from their leaders.

Representative Cantor has tried to cover his tracks and make VAWA seem like a priority, saying "I as a gentleman care very deeply about women in the abuse situation, that we need to get them the relief this bill offers."

I really don't know where he gets the nerve. Not a single member of the Party he leads has cosponsored the Violence Against Women Act in the House.

So once again EMILY's List champions like Senators Patty Murray, Kay Hagan, and Jeanne Shaheen, are fighting a battle in Congress that shouldn't even need fighting, and trying to "make life work" for all women. They were the key to helping an inclusive VAWA pass in the Senate this week, and now the torch has been passed to the pro-choice Democratic women in the House like Gwen Moore and Louise Slaughter. But the challenge is still getting House Republicans to help pass it.

Let's look at some statistics. Three women die each day because of domestic violence, but that hasn't been a motivating factor for the GOP. They have already made it clear that they're not going to reauthorize VAWA even though it's their moral obligation as leaders to protect people from avoidable harm. What about money? The annual cost of medical expenses related to family violence totals nearly six billion dollars across the nation; but those costs don't seem to be incentive for the party of 'fiscal responsibility.'

I'm at a loss, and I think it's time for the carrot and stick argument. The only hope we have left is that Republicans will pass it out of self-preservation. They can soften their message all they want, but their opposition to this bill speaks for itself, and it is reigniting disgust among the voters who rejected them last November. So here is a statistic they might find persuasive -- "92 percent of women say that reducing domestic violence and sexual assault should be at the top of any formal efforts taken on behalf of women today." How many votes is that?

I have a simple message for Republicans: President Obama won with an 18-point gender gap, and we helped elect an historic number of pro-choice Democratic women to the House and Senate. But you're still sticking to the anti-woman, anti-family position that kicked so many of you out of office. Now you have a choice to make. Step up to the plate and vote to give all victims of violence the resources they need to get back on their feet. Or block this vital piece of legislation again, and pay for it at the ballot box.

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