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Women Promise Revolt over GOP Stance on Violence Against Women Act

Legislation passes Senate despite best effort of opposition group; likely to face same obstructionary forces in Republican-controlled House of Representatives

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

(Photo: Gage Skidmore via

Women's groups are promising swift revenge come election season to a group of male Republican Senators who voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which passed the Senate Tuesday despite their best opposition efforts.

The 22 male Republicans who voted against the bill, led by GOP darling Marco Rubio, were objecting to new amendments which introduced protections for undocumented immigrants, LGBT people and those living on Native American reservations. The bill authorizes $659 million over five years for programs and services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

"It is difficult to understand why people would come in here and try to limit which victims could be helped by this legislation," said bill sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt). "If you're the victim, you don't want to think that a lot of us who have never faced this kind of problem, sat here in this body and said, 'Well, we have to differentiate which victims America will protect.'"

In a statement released Tuesday, Rubio said he objected to programs that would divert funding from domestic violence to sexual assault programs and "had concerns" regarding the "conferring of criminal jurisdiction" to Native American tribal governments.

Calling his objections "squibbling," Susan Scanlan, chair of the 12 million strong National Council of Women's Organizations, said, "This is an across-the-board issue. They have got it in for women again. Why pick a fight over something which is so important to families?"

"I certainly think it will cause the Republican party more problems with the 53% of the nation that are women," she added.

"Marco Rubio has national aspirations," said Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. "His vote against the bill is a demonstration that the Republican party at the highest level is in the grip of a radical fringe. He has altered his stance on immigration since the 2012 election. It's very striking that the same gentleman does not understand that the Republican party has the same problem with women voters and in the 2012 election, the Republican party also had a problem with women over rape."

The bill passed 78-22 Tuesday with no women or Democrats voting against. It will now head to the House, where the bill stalled last spring over previous objections by House Republicans to the new minority provisions.

Though this year's Senate VAWA bill includes the LGBT and Native American provisions, Huffington Post notes, that it excluded protections for undocumented immigrants. Reportedly, Leahy has pledged to attach that piece to immigration reform legislation.

The Senators who voted against the bill included Republicans John Barrasso (Wyo), Roy Blunt (Mo), John Boozman (Ark), Tom Coburn (Okla), John Cornyn (Texas), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo), Lindsey Graham (SC), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch (Utah), James Inhofe (Okla), Mike Johanns (Neb), Ron Johnson (Wisc), Mike Lee (Utah), Mitch McConnell (Ky), Rand Paul (Ky), Jim Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Marco Rubio (Fla), Jeff Sessions (Ala), John Thune (SD) and Tim Scott (SC).

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