Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives today called on the Republican-controlled House to pass the Violence Against Women Act, warning the GOP against any further delays and noting that the bill already cleared the Senate with the support of a majority of Republicans.
"Delay is not an option," explained House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal. "Every moment of delay is harmful to women."
She added that she was "pleased" to hear President Obama mention the legislation in his State of the Union last night, and called upon the House majority "to bring that bill to the floor."
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, who co-sponsored the original Violence Against Women Act in 1994, noted, "We had strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress" back then. "There is no reason...why that shouldn't be the case today."
The final vote in the Senate was 78 to 22 in favor of passage - a broad base of support that Hoyer seemed eager to tout.
"All the Democrats voted for it, a majority of Republicans voted for it, and every woman member of the Senate, Republican or Democrat, voted for it," he said.
"The American people deserve a vote," Hoyer insisted.
The legislation, originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized by Congress twice, in 2000 and 2005, strengthens legal protections for victims of abuse, encourages more prosecution of abusers by facilitating the development of law enforcement units dedicated to domestic violence, and increases federal penalties for repeat sex offenders, among other provisions.
Senate Republicans who voted against the bill, including potential 2016 presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and John Thune, objected to certain provisions, specifically those that would bolster legal protection for Native American women.
In a written statement, Rubio explained that while he supported many of the bill's provisions, he said he voted against it because of "provisions that could have potentially adverse consequences," mentioning his "concerns regarding the conferring of criminal jurisdiction to some Indian tribal governments over all persons in Indian country, including non-Indians."
Those objections, which have been echoed by the legislation's opponents in the House, were brushed aside today by Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.
"The idea that certain categories of persons in this country would be exempt from this kind of protection is an assault on our conscience," she said, "and we can't live with that."
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., whose congressional district is home to more Native Americans than any other district in the country, noted that "Native American women are two and a half times more likely to be assaulted in their lifetime than any other woman in the United States."
Pelosi projected determination to see the bill through to final passage and hinted that she may have a stronger hand to play than opponents might like: "A number of Republican members have come to me and said, 'We really need to do this bill.'"