Commitment to a purpose or line of conduct is a necessary ingredient for success in nearly any endeavor whether it is sports, war, or a political agenda. In government, citizens expect their representatives to have as their primary commitment protecting every segment of the population, but Republicans have demonstrated their only interest is protecting the wealthy at the expense of the rest of the people. For the past year, the GOP has committed most of their time and energy to denying women their right to choose their own reproductive health, and regardless the negative publicity, they inexorably continue portraying themselves as the anti-women party. As the Senate began talks to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday, news of Republican opposition to protecting women emerged that reinforces the notion that Republicans hold women in the same regard as they do tax increases on the wealthy; they hate them.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) once had broad bipartisan support since its inception in 1994, but the latest Senate version failed to get a single Republican vote in the Judiciary Committee last month despite the bill’s five Republican co-sponsors. Republicans claim Democrats put “matters on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” according to Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) so “they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women.” Republican opposition is expanding the bill to include Indian tribes and rural areas, free legal assistance to domestic violence victims, extending the definition of violence against women to include stalking, and provide training to courts to deal with families with a history of violence. It also allows battered illegal immigrants to “claim temporary visas” and would include same-sex couples in domestic violence programs.
Apparently, Republicans are not committed to dealing with violence against all women and Senator Grassley (R-Iowa) made the point succinctly. He said the legislation “creates so many new programs for underserved populations that it risks losing the focus on helping victims, period.” If Republicans were committed to protecting women, one would think they would jump at the opportunity to demonstrate their dedication to helping all victims including underserved populations. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) sees Republican opposition as “part of a larger effort, candidly, to cut back on rights and services to women. We’ve seen it go from discussions on Roe v. Wade, to partial birth abortion, to contraception, to preventive services for women. This seems to be one more thing.” Republican Senator John Thune thinks protecting women is not an issue worth addressing and that “there are lots of other issues right now that could be dealt with other than this one” such as restricting the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, immediately building the KeystoneXL pipeline, and restricting contraception coverage in health plans. Thune, like most Republicans, is committed to imposing religious edicts on women and helping enrich the oil industry instead of protecting women, and he has support from conservative activists.
A senior fellow at the conservative Concerned Women for America, Janice Shaw Crouse, labeled reauthorization “a boondoggle” that “vastly expands government” and “creates an ideology that all men are guilty and all women are victims.” The conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly called the VAWA a “slush fund used to fill feminist coffers” and demanded that Republicans stand up against legislation that promotes “divorce, breakup of marriage and hatred of men.” In the Violence Against Women Act’s thirty-nine pages, there are no references to breaking up marriages, promoting divorce, or encouraging hatred of men, but it is highly unlikely that conservatives have read the document and are up to their standard practice of fabricating lies to garner support from the religious right. As an aside, it is noteworthy that in many Christian denominations, battered women suffer because they do not subject themselves to a man’s will and should take their punishment in silence and wait for relief in the next life, but that is another article altogether.
The prescient point is that Republicans do not consider women worthy of protection and certainly not at the government’s expense. Senator Jon Kyl cited concerns “related to the additional sums of money and grants that would be available and the like,” but he is a huge supporter of maintaining $21 billion in oil subsidies to the obscenely profitable oil industry. In cost benefit analysis, the VAWA actually saves taxpayers $4.8 billion in direct property losses, medical and mental health care, police responses, victim services, lost productivity, death and reduced quality of life. In its first six years alone, the VAWA saved at least $14.8 billion that worked out to savings of $159 per U.S. woman.
Republicans say reauthorizing VAWA is a no-go because it extends protections to same-sex couples and illegal immigrants and that “if you don’t agree with everything that’s in it, they just attack you as being anti-women.” One of the co-sponsors of the VAWA reauthorization, Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, gave a stern warning to her Republican colleagues at a Republican lunch last Tuesday that the party was at “risk of being successfully painted as anti-women, with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall,” and she is correct on both counts. Republicans are anti-women and they will pay dearly in the general election if they continue attacking women. Still, Republicans such as Roy Blunt who authored the amendment to allow employers and insurance companies to ban contraception coverage on moral grounds thinks the GOP is in the driver’s seat on anti-women issues. He said, “Our friends on the other side are in serious danger of overplaying their hand on this one,” allowing Americans to see that Republicans still think they have moral superiority to attack women’s rights with impunity.
It is nearly incomprehensible that Republicans are objecting to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on a plethora of fabricated issues. The truth of the matter is that Republicans do not consider women as anything but second-class citizens who are punching bags for conservatives and religious fanatics. They habitually vote against gender equality in pay, healthcare costs, reproductive rights, and protection from domestic violence. What is possibly most egregious is their objection to extending protection to native-Americans, undocumented immigrants, same-sex couples, and women who live in rural areas. Regardless of their alleged issues about the VAWA, Republicans are continuing a year-long assault on women that shows no sign of letting up regardless the negative publicity and anger in the women’s population, and if they think for a minute that men are going to sit idly by and allow their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters to weather more abuse from Republicans in Congress or state legislatures, they are sadly in error. With women making up over 50% of the population and one-in-four women suffering from domestic violence, refusing to immediately reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act as it is written is a mistake they may not recover from. Their commitment to continue their war on women may be the final straw that breaks Republican’s already severely weakened backs, and one hopes it is extremely painful because there will be no relief for electoral violence against Republicans.