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Bill Straub: About those votes against the Violence Against Women Act; NRA saw is as gun control


The He-Man Woman Haters Club, created by Alfalfa, Spanky and other members of the Little Rascals back in the 1930s, looks to be undergoing a surprising revival even though the boyish imps of the original incarnation have been displaced by the manful, masculine, manly men known as the Republicans in the Kentucky congressional delegation.

This resurrection isn’t so much because the GOP House members think “girls are the bunk,” as the Rascals said in their initial pledge of allegiance to the cause, but because they much prefer guns of every possible description over vulnerable and fearful women.

The House last week voted 263-158 to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark piece of legislation, initially adopted in 1994 to address the terrible and ongoing problem of women confronting the living hell of domestic abuse, sexual assault and other attacks that often place them in grave danger.

Photo from the National Domestic Violence Hotline

VAWA was the first law of its kind and has been reauthorized every five years or so. It initially provided funds and legal assistance for victims, established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice, enhanced law enforcement training in the area of sexual and domestic violence and strengthened penalties for certain sexual crimes. It further prohibited spouses or former spouses from owning guns if they had a record of felony stalking or domestic violence. Changes have been enacted over the years to assure that those in distress and in fear for their lives receive additional protections.

Now one might think a law intended to halt the plague of women being seriously harmed or killed because of their gender might receive bipartisan support in 2019. Indeed, some responsible Republicans voted for the measure. But 157 of the 197 Republicans in the House voted no.

And, of course, that list includes every single Kentucky House Republican — Rep. Jamie Comer, R-Tompkinsville, Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset and, of course, a column favorite, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-SomewhereorotherLewisCounty. The delegation’s lone Democrat, John Yarmuth, of Louisville, supported reauthorization.

The reason, of course, was the National Rifle Association, a thoroughly detestable organization that made it clear to the lawmakers in its hip pocket that it would look disapprovingly at any effort to further protect women from violence.

The reauthorization included amendments to prohibit those with misdemeanor convictions for domestic abuse or stalking from owning a gun – current law only relates to felonies. The new package further closed the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” expanding the law to ban dating partners convicted of abuse or stalking charges from owning a firearm.

These proposals were not pulled out of thin air. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent. And there are a lot of folks who find themselves confronting this tragedy – almost 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S and one out of every three women and one out of four men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

In the Commonwealth, according to the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, residents experience sexual violence at rates higher than the national average. More than 20 percent of Kentucky women have been raped while 47 percent have been subjected to some form of domestic violence.

Given the widely increased possibility that guns in a domestic violence situation will lead to death, limiting access to firearms would seem paramount. But the NRA, followed by its sycophants in Congress – including the gutless GOP wonders from Kentucky – think otherwise.

“The gun control lobby and anti-gun politicians are intentionally politicizing the Violence Against Women Act as a smokescreen to push their gun control agenda,” NRA spokesperson Jennifer Baker told the Associated Press.

Remember to tell that to the thousands of women who have been shot to death as a result of a violent encounter resulting from domestic or sexual abuse.

Of course the Kentucky chapter of the He-Man Woman Haters Club had other items on its agenda. In late March, the House, in overwhelming fashion, passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, intended to enhance the landmark Equal Pay Act of 1963, which required that men and women receive equal pay for equal work.

It hasn’t worked as intended. Fifty-six years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act, women who work full time in the U.S. make just 82 percent of what male workers earn.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women’s earnings were 62 percent of men’s in 1979, the first year for which comparable earnings data are available. Most of the growth in women’s earnings relative to men’s occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. Since 2004, the women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio has remained in the 80 to 83 percent range – meaning closing the gap has either stalled or even regressed a bit.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would prohibit employers from asking candidates how much they earned in previous jobs. It would also ditch work rules that ban workers from exchanging salary information and require employers to share salary data with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

All of which makes sense, except if you’re a Republican congressman from Kentucky. The same lawmakers who placed guns above battered women don’t seem to care if the female of the species gets paid as much as men either.

Massie the Wonder Boy, apparently seeking to serve as president of the new club, added to his legend as the most worthless member of Congress last week when he voted against a measure to name a post office in tribute to one of the House’s most notable former members – the late Louise Slaughter of New York.

Yes, the Whiz Kid voted against honoring a woman, although her husband, Bob, was included in the renaming of the facility in Fairport, NY. Slaughter served in Congress for 31 years and was the first woman to chair the House Rules Committee. Ironically, she also was the prime sponsor of the aforementioned Violence Against Women Act.

What made Massie’s no vote particularly interesting is that it was cast against a fellow Kentuckian. Slaughter was a native of Lynch in Harlan County, moved with her family to Monticello in Wayne County and graduated from Somerset High School before attending the University of Kentucky where she received degrees in microbiology and public health.

And I can testify she never lost her Appalachian Kentucky accent.

So Wonder Boy in this instance not only dissed a beloved, deceased female colleague, saying individuals other than those who served in Congress deserved the honor, he refused to acknowledge a fellow Kentuckian.

A twofer!

This boy will go far.

KyForward’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.


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