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Published: Tuesday, 3/20/2012

Senate abuse


A bill that would renew and expand the Violence Against Women Act is before the U.S. Senate. Republican efforts to block the measure would be not only wrong, but also politically suicidal.

The bill would continue programs that make domestic-violence grants to local law enforcement agencies and shelters for battered women. It would extend services to members of Native American tribes and people in rural areas.

It would provide free legal aid to victims of domestic violence. It would expand eligibility to include legal immigrants and same-sex victims.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure on a 10-8 vote. But no committee Republican voted for the bill, even though it has five GOP sponsors.

Republicans say Democrats have loaded the proposal with items they find unpalatable. GOP senators are under substantial pressure from conservative activist groups to oppose reauthorization.

Two aspects of the debate are worth noting. The first is that any senator would be so foolish as to oppose legislation that would extend protection of women from domestic violence.

The second is that in an election year, Republicans would add this opposition to a growing record of hostility toward women on other issues. These include GOP objections to contraception coverage under the federal health-care act, and Republican support for new obstacles for women who seek abortions.

The dispute also reminds voters that a Republican president would likely name justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade -- another attack on women's rights and personal freedom.

If Republicans find parts of the Violence Against Women Act objectionable, they should work them out with the Democratic majority in the Senate. Attempting to kill the bill is self-defeating.

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