Friday, March 1, 2013

VAWA: A Closer Look at Five Republicans who Said No

by Nomad

Let's take a closer look at five Republicans who voted against the renewal of a bill which gives legal protections to women who are victims of violence.  

After the vote on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the prospect of taking control of the Senate just became a little more remote. 

As The Daily Caller noted, many of the Republicans who have considered or who have announced plans to run for the Senate decided to vote against the bill. 

That legislation provides 
"$1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposes automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allows civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted. The Act also establishes the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice."
The bill covered many important topics such as human trafficking, domestic violence (including during pregnancy) sexual slavery, forced abortion, sexual violencemarital rape and many other crimes that tend to target women. Any no vote would logically require some kind of explanation to the public. 
In this post I would like to shine a spotlight on five Congressmen and women who have dreams  of a revered Senate seat but who also decided to deny women suitable protections against violence.

Steve King said NO to VAWARep. Steve King of Iowa
Among those who are seriously considering finding a home in the Senate, there's conservative Congressman Steve King from Iowa's 4th congressional district who recently announced his intention of filling the vacancy left by Tom Harkin.

When the news of his vote against VAWA leaked out, his fellow Iowan Congressman, Democrat Bruce Braley tweeted:
#VAWA passes House overwhelmingly >280 votes. A good day on the House floor. 3 Iowans voted "yes." 1 voted "no." Any guesses? 
King responded:
I understand the importance of reauthorizing VAWA to ensure its resources are available to help fight domestic abuse and sexual assault.."I supported this legislation because I know how important it is to empower women in difficult situations. If a woman is at risk, she should know that she has a place to turn for support and assistance. I supported VAWA in 2005, 2012, and today I voted in support of the House version to see that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault have access to the resources and protection when they need it the most."
That's a misleading remark. King voted no on the bill, yet without his help, the House yesterday was able to pass a revised version by 286 to 138, (with the support of 87 Republicans). The bill King refers to was a cheap knock-off bill that left out protections for Native communities and LGBT people. It was defeated 166 to 257.
To King and many others, gender rights and civil rights are two completely different issues. While King says he supported the House bill, he could not support the changes to the bill that included opened the protections to all women, both straight or gay. 

In the past, King has come out strongly in favor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one-man-one-woman and has been rated an inspiring 0% by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), because of his anti-gay-rights stance. So, in theory, if there were no lesbians and none who wanted to marry, King could have given his full support.

You might recall that Congressman King last August made an ass of himself by claiming that he had never personally heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest.

King later said that the remark was taken out of context. What he really meant was that he personally hasn’t known a child who was pregnant from rape or incest. (The Republican elite surely must have breathed a sigh of relief at this news at least) 

In fact, as soon as King uttered those careless word, he should have abstained from any vote on legislation protecting women on the grounds of ignorance. In a country where 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12 and 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker with 34.2% of attackers were family members, there’s no excuse for King’s ignorance.

Tom Cotton voted against VAWARep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas
Of all of those that opposed VAWA, Justin Amash against VAWA of Arkansas’ 4th Congressional District is probably the most respectable. A graduate from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Cotton enlisted the U.S. Army in 2005. After four years of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, he completed his tours as a captain. 
Cotton threw his John Deere in the Congressional race when five-term incumbent Mike Ross stepped out. He defeated State Senator Gene Jeffress- whose habit of jumping between Houses finally caught up with him- with 59% of the vote. 

Make no mistake. Congressman Cotton is certainly a politician to watch out for. If the GOP have any hope of winning a majority in the Senate, the Senate race in Arkansas is a must-win. Republicans have been pushing hard to get Cotton to run for the Senate seat against Democrat Senator Mark Pryor. 
Cotton recently raised some eyebrows with an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal which came out against the Chuck Hagel nomination for Defense Secretary.
Unlike the current secretary of defense, Mr. Hagel seems willing to accept devastating cuts to defense spending, calling the U.S. military "bloated" and in need of being "pared down."
Never mind the fact that John Boehner, who will just last week attended a fundraiser for Cotton, was unwilling to do anything to stop the Sequester fiasco. Never mind that According to the White House, under the sequester there would be a 9.4 percent cut to most defense programs and a 10 percent cut to a handful of other Pentagon accounts that are not subject to annual congressional appropriations. 

Never mind that. Cotton feels Hagel is the problem.

Like King and Bachmann, Cotton has drawn the support of Eagle Forum PAC. The conservative interest group Eagle Forum was set up by Phyllis Schlafly in 1972, though you might recognize its original name, Stop ERA. (The ERA was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights for women.)

Among its many un-conservative positions, The Eagle Forum supports the view that women's should be "full-time homemakers", and is opposed to same-sex marriage.

When it comes to women, Congressman Cotton has made some fairly silly remarks, revealing a unexpected kind of sexism. According to a article in Huffington Post:
Freshman Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a former Army infantry officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, said on Tuesday that military women should not serve in front-line combat roles because their "nature" makes them unfit for the task.
As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said when he lifted the ban, “American men and women are "fighting and dying together and the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality." And USAToday laid out the case this way: 
"Women are serving and have been serving in uniform alongside their male counterparts in Afghanistan and did so in Iraq for much of the past decade, even as their theoretical fitness to serve was debated back home. Although officially in support roles, the distinction ultimately made little difference to the 152 female U.S. troops who have died while deployed in those two wars."
Compared to the other white haired old men of the Republican party, Cotton might seem to be young and modern  but his views when it comes to women are positively Edwardian. He was unconvinced by that new-fangled equality argument. Women are not equal to men. Nature made them weaker so that we big brawny men could defend them.
"To have women serving in infantry, though, could impair the mission-essential tasks of those units," Cotton said on Laura Ingraham's radio show, according to ThinkProgress. "And that’s been proven in study after study, it’s nature, upper body strength, and physical movements, and speed, and endurance, and so forth."
Wait.. Hear that? It’s the sound of Akin warning bells going off. Republicans will just have to wait a little longer about how Cotton feels about legitimate rape.

There’s another disappointing aspect to Cotton’s vote against VAWA. After his tour of Afghanistan, where rape, domestic violence and honor killings, and other forms of brutality against women is an accepted part of that culture (with or without the Taliban), he could feel no twinge of conscience about not doing all in his power as a Congressman to see it does not happen in his own country. Perhaps Cotton doesn’t have a conscience to be twinged. 

In that case the Republicans really have found the perfect candidate.

Michele Bachman VAWARep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota
Michele Bachmann voted against VAWA and that should seal her fate as far as any Senate run. She was in fact the only member of congressional delegation from Minnesota to vote against it.
Her spokesman (and what a job that must be) tried to spin the vote this way.
"Rep. Bachmann recognizes the importance of giving local law enforcement and nonprofit programs the resources they need to fight against domestic violence and sexual assault, which is why she supported the stronger House version of the Violence Against Women Act." 
In typical Bachmann fashion, the truth is slightly different.
The “stronger” House version’s main difference was that it weakened the original bill’s protections on gay women, same-sex couples and Native Americans.
Orwell couldn’t have written it better. “Stronger” means “weaker” because, as Bachmann would tell you, when you weaken protections for minorities you strengthen protections for the rest of the population.
It’s this kind of logic that will make Bachmann’s proposed run for the Senate hopeless but amusing, nonetheless. (You’ll forgive me if I don’t waste any more time with this woman.)

Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota
Kristi Noem against VAWAIt is always sad and shameful to find any minority voting against their own best interests, especially when the only criteria is following the party line. Kristi Noem seems to be a case in point. 

South Dakota’s House representative Kristi Noem rode into Washington on the Tea Party mad cow stampede in 2010 which formed the 112th Congress- voted as the least respected session in American history. Hurrah!

As soon as she got her seat, she quickly dismissed those silly Tea Party core principles, namely, its opposition to government subsidies on fiscally-conservative grounds. As a freshman representative, Noem supported subsidies for farms, wind, and ethanol. So despite using the Tea Party label to get elected, Noem suddenly changed her position in favor of government handouts. Speaking on a radio talk show, Noem said:
“Ethanol has been very good to South Dakota.”
Perhaps but, many would reply that support for ethanol subsidies has not been good for all Americans or even sound policy.

So Noem’s possible run for the Senate puts her between a rock and a hard place. She should have lost all credibility with her former friends at the Tea Party and no amount of mea culpa is going to change that. (They don’t forget easily.) And she probably will never be trusted by the Republican party elite because of her Tea Party background.

Noem has already had some problems dealing with her own constituents and with accepting criticism. Earlier this year, Noem decided, without giving any warning or reason, to delete a page of her official Facebook account which contained hundreds comments which criticized her job performance. If she is that sensitive, she is in the wrong career. 

Not too worry about Kristi. Unless she has a voice like Harvey Fierstein with a cold, pretty faced Noem will always find work on Fox News. 

Speaking of that, Kristi has one thing going for her. She was voted numero uno on Capital Hill’s Top 5 Sexiest Congresswoman List by the properly-named Right behind Michele “crazy eyes” Bachmann. 

As Sarah Palin conclusively proved, when it comes to the old guard of the Republican, a pair of flashy gams, a well-timed wink, and a few double-entendres can take you pretty high, pretty fast. And Republican never ever learn from past mistakes.

With a vote against VAWA- (which among so many other thing protects women against forced prostitution) and her betrayal of her Tea Party roots, the GOP might just be willing to forgive and forget. 

At least until the swim-suit part of the competition.

Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan
Justin Amash against VAWAAs House representative for Michigan's 3rd congressional district, which includes Grand Rapids, Justin Amash, at 32, is its second youngest member. Reason, (presumably as a compliment), called Amash "the next Ron Paul."

Amash is definitely going to have a tough time getting funding from Rove Republicans if he is serious about his plan to run for a Senate seat in 2014. He has already crossed the party line by calling out John McCain as a racist over remarks made about the Iranian president comparing him to a monkey. 
(Technically it isn’t racism when you attack one person and never mention race. McCain’s undignified remarks were merely another example why he should have retired from the Senate after the 2008 elections.What can you expect from anybody who still thinks Palin was a good choice and who led a crowd into song "Bomb, bomb bomb,Let's bomb, Iran." ) 

Besides that unruly behavior by Amash, he has had the audacity to foul up Republican plans to blame the Sequester fiasco on the President. Stating the obvious (which is always unpopular in the GOP), Amash told his fellow Republicans.
"You voted for it, you signed it, that means you support it..And if you don't support it, then don't vote for it and don't sign it."
Whoops, Boehner had spent a week calling it Obama’s Sequester and suddenly that effort- the only effort Boehner made- went up in smoke thanks to honest Amash. 
Additionally he even stepped into dangerous waters by making this common sense remark. When it comes to cost cutting, he wrote on his Facebook page:
"Our military spending should be based on the defense needs of the United States, not the business interests of defense contractors."
That’s a big fat no-go when it comes to the conservative wing of the Republican party. The military industrial complex has been the feeding hand since Reagan and that's something you don't bite, Justin. 

His other positions are what we have come to expect from the Tea Party. His stand, for example, on abortion is predictably extreme; since he believes life begins at conception, Amash must be against abortion even in cases of rape and to save the life of the mother. 
He is against any gun control, predictably citing the second amendment. 
He supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits the legal definition of marriage to one man and one woman.
Amash also voted for ending the Home Affordable Modification Program, also known as HAMP, This rescue program (part of Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 ) was “designed to help financially struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure by modifying loans to a level that is affordable for borrowers now and sustainable over the long term. “ 

In hard-hit states like California, this program was credited with a 67% plunge in the number of foreclosures. Banks were suddenly more willing to work with customers after the government mandated that “banks to verify mortgage documents before a foreclosure and imposing fines of up to $7,500 per loan for filing multiple unverified foreclosure documents. The law also requires lenders to provide a single point of contact for borrowers facing foreclosure.” Banks were no longer able to give desperate home-owners the run around by sending them "elsewhere."

Terminating a program like that takes a lot of courage/insensitivity and/or explaining in a state like Michigan which, only the year before his vote, had fifth highest rate of foreclosure filings. (The bill,by the way, died in the Democratic-controlled Senate and would have, at any rate, been vetoed by the president.)

As far as Amash’s Senate run, from the liberal Democrats, Amash could provide some much needed entertainment as Rove scrambles to keep the Tea-Party libertarians (or whatever they call themselves) in line. A mutiny within the party has been predicted for quite some time.

Amash has been encouraged to run for the Senate seat by a most unlikely source. One super PAC, Liberty for All, announced that it would make a hefty (six to seven figures) behind any Amash Senate run. That superPAC was founded by- get this- by one John Ramsey, a 21-year-old economics major at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Ramsey and his siblings found themselves instant millionaire overnight when their grandfather died, “inheriting holdings in real estate, timber, natural gas and other industries in separate accounts.” (Talk about your modern day Don Quixote.)

While we wish Amash the best of luck in making the GOP miserable, Amash has clearly made a fundamental mistake in not keeping his mouth shut and voting strictly as he is told. The Republican party doesn’t work that way.

By Amash deciding to vote against the VAWA, one can assume that Liberty for all does not include freedom from violence for women, including “gays, lesbians and transgender individuals, Native Americans and immigrants in the gay and lesbian community.” That's not the "all" he means, maybe.

*    *    *    *

In the end, the vote against the bill did nothing but demonstrate that while many in Congress may have big dreams of stardom in the august Senate, their notions about women's issues (and  civil rights in general) barely makes them fit for any elected office in any developed country.
So, to the Republicans who wish to take over both Houses of Congress, keep dreaming.
Update: Here's a graphic with the full list of the Republicans who voted against VAWA