Thursday, March 15, 2012

A snapshot of everything that is wrong in Washington

It should have been so simple.

The Violence Against Women Act, legislation that has enjoyed wide bipartisan support since 1994, needs to be renewed.

Last fall, 58 senators, including five Republicans crafted and co-sponsored renewal legislation.

The legislation hit the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Sen. Charles Grassley discovered several things that he didn't like, and all of the Republicans on the committee (all men by the way) voted against renewal.

As part of the renewal, the New York Times reports that
The legislation would continue existing grant programs to local law enforcement and battered women shelters, but would expand efforts to reach Indian tribes and rural areas. It would increase the availability of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking, and provide training for civil and criminal court personnel to deal with families with a history of violence. It would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence.

Republicans say the measure, under the cloak of battered women, unnecessarily expands immigration avenues by creating new definitions for immigrant victims to claim battery. More important, they say, it fails to put in safeguards to ensure that domestic violence grants are being well spent. It also dilutes the focus on domestic violence by expanding protections to new groups, like same-sex couples, they say.
The Times story quotes several Republicans who complain about the "timing" of the legislation. Yes, blocking this legislation clearly interferes with Republican efforts to block other worthwhile legislation as well as Presidential appointments. So many filibusters, so little time. Nevertheless, this bipartisan bill should be a slam dunk that Republicans and Democrats can take care of expeditiously.

Republicans also complain about how the bill is be politicized. Here they have a point, which also tells you much about what is wrong in Washington. Democrats are politicizing the bill. Politico reports how Sen. Charles Schumer is licking his chops to make this a campaign issue.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer believes he has found a political weapon in the unlikeliest of places: the Violence Against Women Act.

Republicans have several objections to the legislation, but instead of making changes, Schumer wants to fast track the bill to the floor, let the GOP block it, then allow Democrats to accuse Republicans of waging a “war against women.”
Of course, there would be nothing to further politicize if a handful of Republican neanderthals hadn't stopped the legislation in the first place.

If the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee or Sen. Schumer actually cared one whit about reducing domestic violence, some of the sticky provisions could be quickly and quietly fixed. This is what used to happen in Washington when grown-ups were in charge.

Also, it's not as if the Republicans won't get another bite off this particular apple when it is taken up either in the House of Representatives or in conference.

Instead, we're treated to the childish spectacle of each side taking yet another issue to the political equivalent of DEFCON 1. Given the risks to women, children, and others from holding up this legislation, this sickening gamesmanship should stop.

My sainted and ever-patient mother had a kindly expression when my siblings and I got into an argument (imagine me arguing with anybody about anything). She would say, "you kids would fight over shit."

My mom would have even less patience with this bunch.