ByÂ David Grant, Christian Science Monitor
Violence against women â€“ once a bipartisan concern onÂ Capitol HillÂ â€“ is shaping up as a largely partisan clash, as Democrats push to extend a legislative winning streak on womenâ€™s health and rights.
Six female Democratic senators were joined byÂ Sen. Lisa MurkowskiÂ ofÂ AlaskaÂ (R) on the Senate floor Thursday to offer their support for the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which expired in September.
The bill expands funding for state and local governments to respond to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and (a new category) stalking.
Two previous iterations of the six-year bill, originally drafted by then-Sen. Joseph BidenÂ in 1993, have been renewed with solid bipartisan support. However, the new bill cleared theÂ Senate Finance CommitteeÂ on Feb. 2 without a singleÂ GOPÂ vote.
Indications are that both sides are playing politics.
Democrats have added provisions, such asÂ expanding aid to same-sex couples and undocumented immigrants, that make the bill a nonstarter for many Republicans.Â In a presidential election year, Democrats are using the Republicans’ opposition to bolster their claims that Republicans are waging a â€œwar against womenâ€ â€“ a bid to woo women voters.
Republicans, meanwhile, are trying to force the Democrats to pay a political price for moving the bill. They want an open amendment process that would allow them to take out parts of the bill they say are unpalatable.
Democrats say their additions to the bill are necessary and question the Republican decision to dig in.
â€œIt signals that there well could be a filibuster. Now, why?â€ saysÂ Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)Â ofCalifornia. â€œThe police department responds to a call regardless of who it is. And the service should be there regardless of who it is.”
â€œI think we need to take up the bill, and I think we need to have an open amendment processâ€ on the Senate floor, said Senator Hutchison, who supports reauthorizing the law.
An open-amendment process is now rare in the Senate.
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