No Senate stalling on domestic violence: Cantwell

By:  Joel Connelly
Source: Seattle PI

The U.S. Senate needs to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and that includes giving temporary visas to beaten mail-order brides, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., argued Thursday.

Cantwell went on the MSNBC program “Hardball” to chide Senate Republicans, some of whom have balked at renewing the Clinton-era law and offered up their own alternative.

“We have so many women impacted by this, over a million women a year: Lets make sure that law enforcement has the tools they need,” said Cantwell, who is up for reelection in November.

The violence law has enjoyed bipartisan support for years.  But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, told the New York Times there have been “matters put into the bill that invite opposition.”

The controversy appears to center on immigration law.  The pending bill would allow battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, particularly if testimony is needed by prosecutors.

“Lets not forget, some of these cases in the case of my home state, Washington, these were women who were brought into the country (by) mail order bride organizations,” Cantwell said.  Once in the country, they have faced violence — and murder in one well-publicized case.

The pending legislation would provide money to local law enforcement, particularly for dealing with violence on Indian reservations and in rural areas.  It would increase legal assistance to victims.  It would extend protection to cases involving domestic violence between same-sex couples.

Republicans are uneasy with the bill, but equally uneasy about their image among American women.

They recently championed an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, that would given businesses, on grounds of moral objections, sweeping power to deny contraception coverage in health insurance to women employees.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, voted for the Blunt amendment, only to hear blunt criticism from Alaska women on a trip home.  She shared the experience at a Senate Republican Caucus luncheon earlier this week.

Discussing the Violence Against Women Act, Sen. Blunt told the Times:  “Obviously you want to be for the title.”

Longtime conservative crusader Phyllis Schlafly has charged that the law has been “used to fill feminist coffers” and that its provisions promote “divorce, breakup of marriage and hatred of men.”

Cantwell said American women are asking different questions, adding:

“They want to know how something that has been so bipartisan in the past . . . that’s usually passed with great bipartisan support, may not meet its deadline for being reauthorized.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed vows to bring the violence law up for a Senate vote before Congress’ Easter Recess.