VAWA, which funds programs to help women who are victims of domestic violence, has never been controversial (it passed the Senate in '94 with unanimous support on both sides of the aisle), but conservatives in Congress now oppose it because it includes new protections for Native American abuse victims living on reservations, victims in same-sex couples, and illegal immigrants who are married to US citizens (a provision aimed at helping trafficked women and child brides).
Efforts to pass VAWA in the House as part of the budget bill died on a straight party-line vote earlier this year, and a version of the stand-alone bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.
Washington State's four Republicans in the US house—including two women, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-5) (the highest ranking woman in the house GOP) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3), plus Strachan's predecessor, former King County Sheriff Dave Reichert (R-8)—joined the GOP when they killed VAWA as part of the budget.
We asked the three, who all have a natural affinity with the legislation, whether they would support the legislation as introduced by Democrats in the Senate. While Herrera Beutler's office didn't return our call, McMorris Rodgers and Reichert did.
Reichert's spokeswoman, Natasha Mayer, told PubliCola, "I don't believe he's ever voted against the Violence Against Women Act in any context" but said she couldn't say how he would vote on a House version of the bill because the bill is currently in committee. We're waiting to hear back on whether Reichert would consider supporting specific provisions of the bill protecting Native women, lesbians, and illegal immigrants married to citizens.
Reichert does not have a predictable record on same-sex couples. He voted, for example, for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which protects gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination, in 2007, but also voted with his party on Don't Ask Don't Tell, arguing that "generals in command" should set military policy, not Congress.
Asked whether McMorris Rodgers would support a House version of VAWA with the language Murray and Cantwell are pushing for, her spokesman, Todd Winer, told PubliCola, “The Congresswoman fully supports reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act as Congress has done on two previous occasions, in 2000 and again in 2005. The Congresswoman will work to ensure the reauthorization remains true to the intent of the law, which is to protect women.”
On the House floor last month, McMorris Rodgers called the expansion of VAWA a "distraction" and the "war on women" a story manufactured by Democrats to keep Congress from working on real issues.