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House Sets Up Final Votes On Domestic Violence Bill

The House adopted a rule Wednesday to bring the Senate-passed Violence Against Women Act to the floor, beating back the objections of some conservatives to set up passage of the reauthorization Thursday.

GOP leaders will allow the House version to be offered as an amendment, but many Republicans object to both versions of the bill, making it a foregone conclusion that the House will pass the Senate measure Thursday on the strength of Democratic votes.

Many House conservatives objected to Republican leadership’s decision to bypass committee consideration and bring a bill to the House floor. Nevertheless, the rule was approved 414-9.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said he voted against the rule and will likely vote against the bill in order to send a message to leadership.

“We can send a message to send this back to regular order. This House can only work its will if we use our committees,” he told reporters.

Still, with House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland urging his caucus to vote “yes,” the rule passed.

Republican aides said leadership had been driven to its decision after it was unable to garner support for the House version of VAWA, which the office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia helped draft based on a bill the House brought up last year.

But Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho, said he thinks leadership was nervous about suffering a prolonged political flogging over the issue if GOP members were allowed to debate, and potentially change, aspects of the bill in the committee.

“I think we tend to govern by fear instead of principle here, and I think we need to stop doing that,” he said. “The reason you have the hearings is so the American people can see what the legislation does or doesn’t do. Have we really stopped the violence against women because of VAWA? Those are the things that we need to be asking.”

The episode marks another public display of the tensions between conservatives and their GOP leaders, despite some accord on spending and budgetary issues. It came the same day as the Club for Growth announced it would encourage primaries of Republican moderates.

Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America, another conservative advocacy group, said he expects to be issuing a key vote against the Violence Against Women Act. He said his group has its eye on whether the floor strategy leadership used will come up again.

“I know that people are frustrated,” he said. “I don’t know whether this is a pattern that they’re going to continue to employ or if this is just with this issue that they want to get off the table.”

Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., who served from 1995 to 2001 and was re-elected in 2012, said members should try to kill rules more often when they disagree with leadership’s tactics.

“It seems to be kind of sacrosanct today, that’s something you just don’t do, and I think that’s garbage. I think that we ought to be looking at selectively taking down rules,” he said.

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