Editorial: Rework and renew the Violence Against Women Act
When Congress decides whether to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in coming days, voters will see if lawmakers can set aside partisan gamesmanship and compromise on important matters that should be routine.
The act authorizes using federal money for local programs that help prosecute crimes of domestic and sexual violence and provide services for victims. Enacted in 1994, the law has been reauthorized twice and should be again.
The effort to do that stalled last year because the version the Senate passed expanded the number of visas for illegal immigrant victims of domestic violence, barred discrimination against homosexuals and authorized tribal courts to put non-Indian batterers on trial if their victims are tribe members and the abuse occurs on a reservation.
Those were poison pills that all but ensured there wouldn't be enough Republican support in the House of Representatives to pass the bill, which helped Democrats portray Republicans as anti-woman. The election is past. It's time to govern.
House Republicans should accept the provision that prohibits denying services to homosexuals. The federal government should always demand equal treatment. Senate Democrats should drop the Indian courts provision. That complex sovereignty issue should be handled separately. The visa provision has already been dropped, so there's a workable compomise to be had. Congress should close the deal.