(Above: In this 2012 video to his constituents, Rep. Peter Roskam extolled the Violence Against Women Act. Last month, he voted against it.)
Everybody knows the Violence Against Women Act passed last week — after major controversy because of Republican objections over an expansion of tribal court jurisdiction (to pursue non-Natives who commit rape on Native lands) and the inclusions of LGBTQ people. In the end, a bipartisan effort helped move the bill through.
Everybody also knows every single vote against it was Republican.
Here, however, are a few things to consider about the vote, the VAWA, 2016 and Illinois Republicans.
* Though the VAWA passed by a bipartisan majority, it’s being maimed by the sequestration. More than $20 million — a 5 percent cut across the board — will be slashed from programs, leaving as many as 34,000 victims without service in the next budget year. At the state levels, programs could see additional cuts of more than $5 million, potentially abandoning thousands more. So the program, which has seemed like the lonely bipartisan light in the 113th Congress, could turn out to be more symbolic than substantial.
* Every single GOP 2016 presidential aspirant in the U.S. Senate voted against the VAWA: John Cornyn of Texas, Ron Portman of Ohio, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Florida’s Marco Rubio.
Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Arizona’s John McCain, usually two peas in a pod, split their votes: Graham, terrified of a primary challenge next year, voted nay, while McCain voted aye.
Among the other GOP senators supporting VAWA were New Hampshire’s “It Girl” Kelly Ayotte, outgoing Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, Alaska’s Lisa “Fighting the Tea Party Has Set Me Free” Murkowski, the Maine twins Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and even Louisiana’s David Vitter, who probably voted without irony.
Illinois Senators Dick Durbin voted in favor while Mark Kirk, still recouping from health problems, didn’t vote.
* The GOP House leadership split: Paul Ryan, perhaps remembering the way women voted in the last presidential campaign, voted for it. Eric Cantor, the Majority Whip, voted against it. Speaker John Boehner, as is his custom, didn’t vote.
* Not every single Democrat in Congress voted for the VAWA. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa of Texas abstained.
* Every single Democratic member of the Illinois congressional delegation voted in favor but they were joined by four of the state’s Republicans: Rodney Davis, Adam Kinzinger, Aaron Schock and John Shimkus.
* Schock not only actively supported the legislation, he and Dem Rep Betty McCullm co-sponsored an important amendment: the McCullom-Schock International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, which promotes the empowerment of girls in developing countries at risk of child marriage. (Weird fact: In spite of this forward looking bill, Schock votes with his party 95 percent of the time — even more than Paul Ryan.)
* Davis was one of 16 Republican reps who signed a letter urging the GOP leadership to pass the bill.
* Illinois’ strangest vote might be Rep. Peter Roskam’s nay. A prior supporter of the bill, Roskam gave a 2012 video report to his constituents in which he refers to VAWA quite positively.
“I’m here to report some good news,” Roskam says, looking straight at the camera. “(VAWA) is a very important piece of legislation that is in place to protect victims of domestic violence, and sexual assault and stalking, things that nobody is tolerant of and we all need to be unanimous in fighting against.”
This time around, though, Roskam had “questions of constitutionality as well as the lack of certain conscience protections within the bill.” He hasn’t said what those are. exactly.
Illinois’ other nay vote was Rep. Randy Hultgren.