Why Did Nevada Democrat Shelley Berkley Back The GOP’s Violence Against Woman Act Rollback?

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV)

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV)

Yesterday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives narrowly passed a watered-down Violence Against Women Act — by 222 to 205 margin. The bill not only stripped important provisions from the Senate version but also included provisions that may put women in greater safety risk. For this and other reasons, 23 Republicans voted against the bill along with 199 Democrats.

Just six Democrats voted for the weak tea House Republican version of the bill. Five — Reps. John Barrow (D-GA), David Boren (D-OK), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), and Colin Peterson (D-MN) — are members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition. But the biggest surprise was a yes vote from Rep. Shelely Berkley (D-NV).

Berkley, who is running for Senate this year, has previously been a strong voice for women’s health and safety. On April 26, she tweeted that she was proud those in the Senate “who helped pass the Violence Against Women Act.”

A Berkley spokesman forwarded a statement from the Congresswoman, explaining her vote:

It’s sad that on an issue as important as domestic violence prevention, Washington Republicans have refused to allow a vote on the full Violence Against Women Act passed by the Senate with a bipartisan majority. The fact that a full debate on this issue is not allowed illustrates exactly what is wrong with politics in Washington. However, while today’s legislation is far from perfect, it is better than not having any version of the Violence Against Women Act at all.

Additionally, in a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), she lamented that while she strongly supports the Senate version, because the the majority did not allow a vote on that stronger version, she was “forced to choose between a deeply flawed version of the Violence Against Women Act or nothing at all.”

While her frustration with the Republican majority’s obstruction of a real Violence Against Women Act re-authorization is understandable, the version she voted for was so deeply flawed that many of her colleagues — including even some in the GOP — determined that the Republican version was not necessarily better than nothing at all.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill, via a “motion to recommit,” warning that the Republican’s bill violates the confidentiality a victim is entitled to by telling her abuser that she called the cops.

Additionally, the House version stripped out much-needed protections protecting same-sex couples, immigrants, and Native Americans against domestic violence. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), who voted against the bill, argued that the bill needs House GOP-removed provisions “that would clarify equal treatment for LGBT individuals, bolster enforcement on Native American reservations, and ensure that victims aren’t deported simply for reporting domestic abuse.” Biggert explained her opposition, saying “We don’t need a perfect bill. We need a bill that can provide a solid foundation on which to begin conference negotiations with the Senate. H.R. 4970 fails on this count.”