CONCORD – U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter this week is hitting Republican challenger Frank Guinta on a topic that is always sensitive, but is particularly so in the wake of revelations about the National Football League — domestic violence.
Shea-Porter’s campaign is charging that Guinta has an “appalling” record on women’s issues, particularly, it says, through his support while in Congress in 2011 and 2012 of what her campaign called a “weakened, partisan version” of the Violence Against Women Act.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the initial passage of the bill, which was reauthorized in 2013.
Shea-Porter and Guinta are in a close battle. The most recent poll of the race, taken in July by the University of New Hampshire for WMUR-TV, had Guinta ahead 46 to 43 percent. Among women, Shea-Porter led, 49 to 40 percent.
In the spring of 2012, while Guinta was in the House, Shea-Porter campaign spokesman Marjorie Connolly said, the Democratic-led Senate passed a version of the bill that broadened protections for victims of violence to include tribal, undocumented immigrant and LGBT victims.
But the GOP-led House at that time refused to pass that version and instead passed, with Guinta’s support, a narrower version. House Republicans said their measure allowed all Americans to receive protection because it did not specify who qualifies for those protections, but Democrats said local law enforcement could use the lack of specificity to discriminate against gay or transgender people.
Although the House version of the bill was nearly identical to the original bill signed into law 20 years ago by Democratic President Bill Clinton, funding anti-domestic violence programs at the local level, Democrats said that it no longer went far enough.
But Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former prosecutor, in a floor speech in May 2012, said the Senate version was “constitutionally flawed” and “continued to pit one group of Americans against another group of Americans solely for political reasons.”
According to reports at the time, the GOP House bill did not include a Senate provision that would have allowed Native American women to take American citizens who abused them to court within the tribal legal system. Republicans said the Senate measure was unconstitutional and replaced it with a proposal that allowed Native American women to apply for protective orders from local federal courts. Democrats contended that without the Senate’s proposals, Native American women abused on an Indian reservation would be left without legal recourse.
The Senate bill included a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrant women who had been abused and agreed to cooperate with the police investigation of the crime. Republicans removed the provision, saying it was tantamount to amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Although the bill died in 2012 due to a House-Senate stalemate, the following year it passed both the Democratic-led Senate and the GOP-led House with the added protections and was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
Shea-Porter spokesman Connolly said Guinta’s vote for the narrower version marked “an unfortunate low point” in Guinta’s “extreme record.”
“The Violence Against Women Act historically earned broad bipartisan support – until Frank Guinta’s Tea Party Congress came to town and delayed the authorization of essential anti-domestic violence programs for more than 500 days, hurting women and families,” Connolly said.
The Shea-Porter campaign said that while Guinta voted for the “weakened, partisan version” of the bill “that left out vital protections for victims of abuse,” then-U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, a Republican, opposed it and supported the broader version. He said at the time he was concerned that the GOP House version did not “adequately protect all victims.”
“The revelations last week about the NFL show how important it is for women to have representatives like Carol in Congress who understand that domestic violence must be addressed,” said Connolly. “Unlike Frank Guinta, Carol is working to defend and strengthen anti-violence protections for women and families.”
There was no immediate response from the Guinta campaign to the New Hampshire Journal’s request for comment.