WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders bowed to pressure from within their own party and cleared a path for passage Thursday of the Senate’s bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
The House Rules Committee on Tuesday night approved a bifurcated process to consider the legislation, which would broaden the landmark 1994 law. The law established new legal protections for the victims of domestic violence and set up federally financed programs to assist local law enforcement officers and state courts. The House will vote on a Republican version Thursday that contains provisions weakening a Senate version that empowers Native American courts to prosecute non-Indians accused of violence on tribal land. The House version also does not explicitly extend programs to prevent domestic violence and treat its victims to members of same-sex relationships.
If that version fails to win passage, the House will take up the Senate-passed version — at this point the likely outcome. That would ensure a swift White House signing ceremony.
The Senate passed that version earlier this month, 78-22, with 23 Republicans voting yes.
House conservatives maintain that the Senate provision on tribal courts is a dangerous and unconstitutional expansion of tribal power, and they preferred to keep the bill silent on same-sex couples.
But the pressure, especially on the tribal issue, was bipartisan. Republican Representatives Darrell Issa of California and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, himself a Chickasaw, pressed hard to toughen the tribal-courts language.
Democrats are united against the Republican version, and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, has committed to passing a bipartisan version in the House or none at all.
Cole said Wednesday that House Republican leaders were in an impossible situation, with some conservatives likely to vote against the House version and some moderates opposing the tribal and same-sex provisions. And, he said, ‘‘Democrats are united in opposition to the GOP alternative, so these divisions make it exceptionally difficult to actually pass a bill.’’
Hagel meets with Pentagon staff after being sworn in
WASHINGTON — Chuck Hagel was sworn in Wednesday as defense secretary — President Obama’s third in just over four years and the first who really wanted one of Washington’s toughest jobs.
Introducing himself to Pentagon workers shortly after taking the oath of office, Hagel said he was humbled by the opportunity and ready for the challenge.
He survived a contentious confirmation process in which some Republican senators questioned his suitability for the job and suggested he lacked the character to lead the military.
‘‘I’ll be honest, I’ll be direct, I’ll expect the same from you,’’ he told a standing-room-only audience of several hundred civilian Defense Department workers and members of the military. ‘‘I’ll never ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do.’’
He called the automatic budget cuts due to take effect on Friday — which include $46 billion in Pentagon reductions — ‘‘a reality’’ that ‘‘we need to deal with.’’