The White House is threatening to veto a Republican anti-domestic violence bill slated to be voted on in the House on Wednesday, saying it doesn't go far enough to protect minorities and immigrants.
Instead, the Obama administration continued to encourage passage of its own bipartisan version of the bill, which House Republicans are calling controversial.
"The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 4970, a bill that would undermine the core principles of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)," a White House statement of policy said. "H.R. 4970 retreats from [VAWA's] forward progress by failing to include several critical provisions that are part of the Senate-passed VAWA reauthorization bill."
VAWA was first passed in 1994 and has been updated twice.
The White House-backed version, introduced in November by Senators Mike Crapo, R-Ida., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., seeks to eliminate gender bias in the current legislation and to allow prosecutions of non-Native Americans who commit domestic violence on tribal lands. It passed the Senate by a vote of 68 to 31 last month, with 15 Republicans voting in favor of the bill.
The White House stated the Republican version "fails to provide for concurrent special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction by tribal authorities over non-Indians" and also keeps the gender-biased discriminatory language unchanged.
Furthermore, the White House said, H.R. 4970 eliminates the ability for U visa holders - victims of serious crimes such as rape and torture - to seek U.S. citizenship.
"If the President is presented with H.R. 4970, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill," the statement concluded.
Although VAWA has never been a controversial issue, having been re-authorized twice before without incident, this election year could be different.
H.R. 4970 was put forward Wednesday by Florida freshman Congresswoman Sandy Adams, a former member of the Air Force who was herself a victim of domestic violence.
Some pundits speculate Adams' sponsorship of the bill is less about domestic violence and more about politics. The Tea Party member faces a tough primary challenge from 10-term Congressman John Mica, R-Fla., in August.
Adams and other Republican Congresspeople said the GOP version of VAWA is less controversial than the Senate-passed version.
Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., joined National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill on Capitol Hill to rally against H.R. 4970 Wednesday. Senator Leahy also issued a statement.
"The House refusal to consider the bipartisan Senate-passed reauthorization of the lifesaving Violence Against Women Act can have devastating effects on victims of domestic violence and sexual violence," Leahy said.
He added, "A victim is a victim - no matter their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. The Obama administration is right to strongly oppose the House's ill-conceived measure."
by RTT Staff Writer
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