By Alex Parker
The parties are set for yet another battle in the culture wars.
Senate Democrats Thursday began a push, despite Republican objections, to pass a broadened re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act -- the 20 year-old act which streamlined laws against domestic violence across the country. Previously, the bill has been passed nearly unanimously, but this time around Republicans are crying foul over reports that the bill is being pushed in an effort to embarrass the GOP.
Republicans claim that the bill expands the federal definition of domestic violence to include same-sex couples. Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley also claimed that the bill doesn't do enough to root out waste in federal anti-domestic violence programs, and expands prosecutorial powers too broadly in other areas.
The current law is set to lapse in 2012.
"Their plan isn't to work together to make it easier to create jobs, but to look for ways to make it easier to keep their own," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor of he Senate. "Then use it for campaign ads in the run-up to the November elections. If you're looking for the reason Congress has a nine percent approval rating, this is it."
Some Democrats reject suggestions that they're pushing the issue for political gain.
"When I was a prosecutor, I can tell you about times I was in a blood-stained room at 3 a.m. And those people think it's just an exercise? No," says Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, one of the bill's sponsors. "It's real people."
The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote, although several Republicans supported it, including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo.
It's yet another indication that Democrats are driving a wedge into social issues, previously the bread and butter of the GOP. Democrats were quick to seize on Republican opposition as yet more evidence that their opponents are on the extreme end of the political spectrum.
"The fact that Republicans now consider [Violence Against Women Act] a 'political ploy' just shows you how far right they have shifted," one Democratic aide says.
It also quickly made its way into the Democrats' funding efforts.
"These attacks never seem to end, and it's jaw-dropping," wrote Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in a fund-raising pitch to Democrats.
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