Dem’s VAWA bill a “political messaging tool”
Washington, DC, April 3, 2019 | Greenville Journal - Rep. William Timmons
There are two kinds of bills that get introduced in Congress: substantive legislation and “messaging bills.” Substantive legislation is introduced to make thoughtful changes to our laws and is typically negotiated and vetted by both Congress and the White House far in advance of debate on either the House or Senate floor. Some recent examples include criminal justice reform, tax reform, and bills providing regulatory relief to small businesses. Messaging bills, on the other hand, are pieces of legislation that the sponsor introduces knowing they have no chance of becoming law. They are statements made by legislators to a specific community – most often a voting base – to let them know that they care about an issue. While substantive bills deserve our time, messaging bills are rarely productive and often a waste of increasingly rare floor time.
One of my biggest criticisms of Democratic Leadership is the unrelenting frequency with which they offer messaging bills for debate on the House floor instead of substantive legislation. After three months in Congress, few meaningful pieces of substantive legislation have been put forth for a vote. Even fewer will be signed into law.
Just this week, House Democrats will put another messaging bill on the floor, this time in the form of a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). At its core, VAWA is a federal grant program which provides support to state and local law enforcement to fight domestic violence. As a former prosecutor of domestic violence cases, this is an important issue to me, and this is a program that must be reauthorized.
Unfortunately, House Democrats have included a number of provisions in the bill that are largely unrelated, and perhaps antithetical, to VAWA’s core function. The Democrats’ version of VAWA provides new legal rights for transgender prisoners, deprives individuals of Second Amendment Rights without due process, severely restricts a prosecutor’s ability to compel victim testimony, and fails to provide religious liberty protections for faith-based organizations.