03/01/2013 06:35 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2013

Tammy Duckworth Praises John Boehner On VAWA, Cuts Own Pay Over Sequestration

WASHINGTON -- Rarely does House Speaker John Boehner draw high praise from Democrats, but Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) thinks the Ohio Republican deserves credit for bringing major bills to the floor despite opposition from members of his caucus.

"I think that we should look at it positively that Speaker Boehner was willing to call something up for a vote that members of his own party opposed, because it was for the good of the nation, and he knew that there were votes to pass it," Duckworth said in an interview Thursday with The Huffington Post.

The freshman congresswoman was reacting to the House passage of the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday, which followed a drawn-out fight over expanding protections to Native American, LGBT and immigrant victims of abuse.

"He brought something to a vote. We can't just have the bills that half of Congress approves of … that's not true democracy," Duckworth said, adding that Boehner should also be commended for bringing the Hurricane Sandy relief bill up for a vote in January despite conservative opposition.

Boehner has broken the so-called Hastert Rule three times this year alone, relying on the Democratic minority to push fiscal cliff, Sandy relief and VAWA legislation through the lower chamber. Named after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the rule states that a speaker should only bring legislation to the floor if it has the support of the majority of the majority.

Still, House Republican leaders didn't cave without a fight. Boehner drew criticism for initially heeding conservative opposition to Sandy aid and canceling an expected vote on the relief package two days before his reelection as speaker.

House GOP leadership also refused to bring the Senate VAWA bill to the floor in 2012, letting its fate hang in the balance for almost a year and a half. Conservatives continued to press for a stripped down VAWA bill, but given the political damage that had already been caused by blocking legislation that protected victims of domestic abuse, it was unlikely that Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) would keep up the fight.

Cantor voted against the Senate VAWA bill but worked to convince skeptical Republicans in a closed GOP caucus meeting that a vote was necessary. Neither he nor Boehner released a statement on the bill's final passage Thursday.

Duckworth said she would rather focus on the fact that despite the partisan bickering, Boehner ultimately chose not to stand in the way of progress.

"I know that in terms of party politics, it was not an easy thing to do," she said. "I do hope that he will do more of that."

The Iraq War veteran added that she was disappointed similar progress was not made to avert sequestration, the across-the-board defense and domestic spending cuts that start kicking in Friday.

Earlier in the week Duckworth announced her own unique way of drawing attention to the issue: taking a voluntary 8.4 percent pay cut by returning a portion of her monthly salary to the U.S. Treasury, until a balanced solution is reached.

The congresswoman said she reached the decision after visiting school superintendents in her district last weekend and listening to how the spending cuts would impact special needs and Head Start programs. The 8.4 percentage pay cut is calculated to match the reduction that most discretionary programs will face if sequestration remains intact through the remainder of the fiscal year.

"If Congress is not going to do its job in coming to an agreement, and my neighbors here are going to hurt," Duckworth said, "then I should hurt too."



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