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House GOP scrambles on Violence Against Women Act

National Congress of American Indians/Flickr

As recently as last week, House Republican leaders indicated they would ignore the bipartisan Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act, choosing instead to vote on a watered-down alternative that lacks LGBT protections and would make it more difficult for tribal courts to prosecute non-Native Americans charged with assaulting women on tribal lands.

A lot can change in a week.

The House is expected to give in to Democratic pressure Thursday and pass the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act after failing to find a substitute that can garner the support of a majority of its members. [...]

In the end, according to GOP sources, there was greater support in the House for the Senate-passed bill than the House-drafted text.

There's apparently some procedural maneuvering on the way, but House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) that the lower chamber is likely to move on the Senate bill as early as tomorrow.

Of course, given widespread Republican opposition to VAWA, this would mean House GOP leaders would once again be prepared to advance popular legislation by ignoring the so-called "Hastert Rule," which has traditionally meant Republicans would only bring to the floor legislation that enjoyed the support of "a majority of the majority" -- whether a bill has 218 supporters is less important than whether a bill has the backing of most GOP members.

But in this case, it appears the party's leadership is prepared to get VAWA over with. If all goes according to plan -- and in this chamber, things don't always go according to plan -- the watered-down version will be brought up, it will fail, and then the House will vote on the Senate version. With overwhelming Democratic support, VAWA would only need about 18 Republican votes, which should be fairly easy to get, which in turn would send VAWA reauthorization to the desk of President Obama, who's eager to sign it.

If the plan works out, this will be the third time in two months that the House GOP leadership has ignored the Hastert Rule.