CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS
Updated May 15, 2012 – 11:27 p.m.
GOP Split on Domestic Violence Bill
By John Gramlich, CQ Staff
Republicans will face a test of unity when the House votes Wednesday on renewing domestic violence programs amid efforts by the White House, Democrats and women’s groups to splinter the majority and defeat the legislation.
There are signs of division in the Republican Conference, particularly among moderates, suggesting the vote may be closer than GOP leaders initially expected. But it appears unlikely that opponents will muster the two dozen Republicans who would need to join united Democratic opposition to defeat the measure.
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The bill has drawn fierce opposition from women’s groups and congressional Democrats from the moment it was introduced in late April. Opponents contend it is too onerous on victims and another example of the GOP’s “war on women,” a phrase Democrats have repeatedly employed to denounce the legislation.
The Obama administration has threatened a veto and is pushing Republican leaders to move toward the Senate version. “The administration urges the House to find common ground with the bipartisan Senate-passed bill and consider and pass legislation that will protect all victims,” the White House said in a Statement of Administration Policy.
In an effort to make the legislation more palatable to moderate Republicans, Adams introduced a manager’s amendment Tuesday that jettisoned controversial language related to immigrant victims of domestic abuse.
But some moderates remain uneasy with the measure.
Bass is among seven House Republicans who wrote to Judiciary Chairman
“I’m still studying the bill,” Meehan said. “I am concerned about the removal of provisions which created greater protections for victims of sexual assault and other kinds of violence on college campuses.”
GOP Split on Domestic Violence Bill
Advocacy Groups’ Opposition
Advocacy groups, meanwhile, sensed an opportunity to build opposition to the House version.
“We do have an indication that there are Republicans who could peel away from the Adams bill,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. She said her group would score each member’s vote and characterize “yes” votes on the Adams legislation as a “no” vote on the broader Violence Against Women Act.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence targeted Republicans from 25 states and urged its members to contact those lawmakers to encourage them to oppose the House bill.
Adams’ immigration changes related to the “self-petition process,” which allows battered immigrants to petition for legal residency if they are victims of domestic abuse.
The process applies only to immigrants who are legal residents because they are married to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and is intended to allow immigrants to escape abuse from spouses who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents without fear of being deported.
Adams, who was herself a victim of domestic abuse, initially sought to give federal immigration agents leeway to interview alleged batterers as part of the evaluation of an alleged victim’s residency petition. Republicans have long said the mechanism is being abused by immigrants to gain legal status.
But critics said the proposed change would put victims in danger of reprisal violence because abusers would be notified of their spouses’ requests for independent legal status.
“This confidentiality is critical to protecting the immigrant from additional abuse, and it gives the victim the courage to report the domestic violence crimes,” said an analysis of the current process by Senate Democrats. The analysis added that “some abusers provide false information in an effort to sabotage an immigrant’s efforts to obtain independent status.”
The manager’s amendment also dropped a proposal to end the exclusive role a Vermont immigration facility plays in handling alleged victims’ residency petitions.
The original bill called for that responsibility to be split among facilities in four states — California, Nebraska, Texas and Vermont — but faced resistance, particularly from Senate Judiciary Chairman
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles the requests, said in an October 2010 report to Congress that the Vermont facility should handle the petitions independently because it has “operational expertise and institutional knowledge” and can safeguard alleged victims’ confidentiality.
First posted May 15, 2012 1:37 p.m.