In her weekly open letter, host Melissa Harris-Perry addresses a Congressman who dismisses the Violence Against Women Act as having "a motherhood-and-apple-pie title."
It was one of those weeks in Congress (again). The House stood in recess meaning nothing could get done. Last week, the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of VAWA reauthorization–that’s the Violence Against Women Act. They voted 78 to 22. Yep: 78 yays means this bill has bipartisan support in the Senate.
But, over in the House we continue to wait, even as reports surfaced this week saying that some Republicans are pushing to get a bill of their own passed soon. That is, assuming, they can get their own members on board. Which is why this week’s letter goes to one of the most vocal hold outs: Republican Congressman John Duncan of Tennessee, better known as Jimmy.
Dear Congressman Duncan,It’s me, Melissa.This week you were really on a metaphorical rampage with this lovely little insight about your resistance to the Violence Against Women Act. You said:“Every bill is given a motherhood-and-apple-pie title…but if you voted [based] on the title, you’d vote for every bill up here.”All right, Jimmy: you have a point. There have been a lot of destructive legislative actions that are given deceptively friendly names. “No Child Left Behind.” Of course no one wants any kid left behind. But, we should have left that law behind. Or, The Defense of Marriage Act. It’s pretty clear it doesn’t defend anything but inequality.And then there’s the Patriot Act. Yeah, uh-huh.The titles all sound pretty good before you read the fine print. But Jimmy, that is just not the case with the Violence Against Women Act. It’s not just a bill with a good name–it’s a good bill. This legislation has been reauthorized twice with consistent bi-partisan support. Even you have voted for it twice. And it’s a good thing because it is partly responsible for a 67% decline in the rate of intimate partner violence.But even if you can get past the name issue, congressman, you said your main concern was cost. Oh yes, the Republicans’ favorite red herring for shredding the social safety net! Just claim it is all too expensive.Except, that argument doesn’t hold up, Jimmy. The new bill will cost $659 million over five years. That’s a decrease in cost since 2005, even though the new bill offers more protections. Isn’t that what you business savvy folks on the Right like best? Doing more with fewer resources?So it’s not the name and it’s not really the cost, maybe your reluctance lies in the other bizarre point you made this week. “Like most men, I’m more opposed to violence against women than even violence against men. Because most men can handle it a little better than a lot of women can.”Say what? So, you were all for this bill when it protected a narrow slice of victims–but now you’re not? I am not sure what to make of that but maybe it is because the new Senate version of VAWA expands protections for men and women in same sex relationships. Is it that lesbians and gay men can just a take punch better than straight women? Or maybe you’ve decided that Native American women are particularly good at handling intimate violence because you and the other House Republicans still refuse to support a bill that gives tribal authorities the ability to prosecute those who commit acts of violence on tribal lands. Maybe your refusal to reauthorize VAWA is actually based on a belief that when some people are abused it’s just not a big deal because they can handle it.Well, Jimmy: every year, 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner in the United States. While you are over there making excuses, these human beings are left without the meaningful and effective protections VAWA offers. So how about getting over yourself and getting on board. It is time to reauthorize the bill with both the good name and good law.We are not buying these lines or these lies any longer.Sincerely, Melissa