Brian Darling

According to the Cato Handbook for Congress, “the Constitution specifically authorizes federal enforcement of only three types of laws, all of which involve uniquely federal concerns.” Those three types of criminal laws are laws to prevent counterfeiting, piracy and treason. Combating violent crime of any kind is the purview of the many states and other territories.

The Heritage Foundation’s David Muhlhausen and Christina Villegas note that “despite the fact that each state has statutes that punish domestic violence, the federal government intervened in 1994 with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).” Members of Congress and the President may feel better when they pass a law that goes after the perpetrators of violence against women, yet the federal government is not supposed to waste resources on issues more properly dealt with on the state and local level of governance.

The legislation pending before the Senate, S.1925, infringes on the rights of states and squanders federal resources. Moreover, it vastly expands the original VAWA and the power of the federal government in the domain of violence against women. And then, there’s the politics. Liberals have loaded the bill with poison pill provisions meant to bait conservative politicians into a divisive fight.

Muhlhausen and Villegas note three major problems with the bill:

 

• It expands VAWA to men and prisoners, despite the lack of scientifically rigorous evaluations to determine the effectiveness of existing VAWA programs;

• It expands the already duplicative VAWA grant programs and

• Without precedent, it surrenders the rights of non-native Americans to racially exclusive tribal courts.

 

Another interesting twist: the pending legislation would offer VAWA protection and aid to victims of violence in same-sex couples. In other words, the Violence Against Women Act would protect a man harmed by another man, but only if they are in a sexual relationship.

This is classic special interest politics. Much like federal “Hate Crimes” laws, this legislation is designed to be used as political wedge issue. The aim is to make it appear as though liberals care about “women’s issues,” while conservatives couldn't care less. But all lawmakers are sworn to uphold the Constitution. What they should care about is upholding the will of our Founding Fathers—and pushing back against this ill conceived idea.


Brian Darling

Brian Darling is a Senior Fellow in Government Studies at the Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @BrianHDarling