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Legislation falls short; The Violence Against Women Act approved in House doesn't do enough

When, except in an election year, would a piece of legislation that had been reauthorized on a continual basis for two decades suddenly become a political football?

The House and Senate have passed different versions of a bill renewing the Violence Against Women Act. Congress needs to hash out the differences and come to a resolution that protects all women, regardless of ethnicity, both legal and illegal immigrants and Native Americans.

The Senate version of the bill, which is much stronger than the House version, was approved 68 to 31 last month with bipartisan support, including that of every female Republican senator.

The Senate version would expand coverage to illegal immigrants and Native Americans who are victims of domestic abuse, and specifies the inclusion of gay, lesbian and transgender victims.

The House version removes those provisions from the Republican-backed bill that passed last week, 222 to 205, along party lines.

It is difficult to see why the House version excludes protections at a time when the president of the United States has finally "evolved" — in the correct manner — on same-sex marriage. It should not matter what religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, legal or illegal background a woman claims.

Meanwhile, House Speaker John A. Boehner is accusing the Senate and New York's Charles E. Schumer in particular of using the bill as a political weapon in this year's election cycle.

He says a technical error in the Senate-passed bill stalled negotiations over the legislation. According to media reports, that dispute involves a section of the bill that requires raising fees. Boehner points out that the Constitution specifies that all revenue bills must be initiated in the House and not the Senate.

Ironically, this is clearly a battle line drawn in the effort to win female voters. The methodology is suspect.

As Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, an original co-author of the Violence Against Women Act, (enacted in 1994) said, "Surely, if there's one issue that should have overwhelming support, it would be the need to end domestic violence once and for all in this country..."

And as for the political games being played that roll back protections for women, Slaughter said, "Shameful doesn't even begin to describe it."