While much of the attention on Capitol Hill is focused on fiscal cliff negotiations, lawmakers are also working on other pieces of unfinished business, including a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. A version of the bill has passed in the Senate, but partisan differences have held it up in the House. Now one local congressman, Republican Eric Cantor of Virginia, who is also the House Majority Leader, is working with Vice President Joe Biden to try to hammer out the details. David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, joins WAMU 88.5's Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey to talk about the details.
On the sticking points of a bill that expands rights to the gay community, immigrants and inhabitants of tribal land: "The main sticking point is that the House Republicans need to look up at the calendar and realize that the election has passed. What Eric Canter, the majority leader, is trying to do, as best as we can tell, is gage the support within his troops and say, 'now that the election is over, we don't need to use this as a political football anymore.' The Democrats used it against the Republicans this spring that Republican resistance, and said that Republican resistance was part of their so-called war against women, trying to exacerbate the gender gap. It seemed to work. It worked in the Senate, somewhat. Now that the election is over, the notion is that the Republicans would be looking at the exit polls, and realizing that as renewal of this might not be so bad."
On what we know about Cantor's role in these negotiations with Joe Biden: "What we know is... Joe Biden's role is obvious... he is a chairman of the former Senate Judiciary Committee. And Eric Cantor's role is obvious, too, which is to say with John Boehner focused on entirely on the budget talks, it falls to his deputy to do some of the heavy lifting on some of those second tier, but still important matters. We know that Eric Canter is the majority leader, he's a former whip, he's a great vote counter, he knows where the votes are is the assumption, he can figure out precisely what to negotiate that can get through. The sticking points are, the bill as passed by the Senate, would expand some of the provisions of Violence Against Women to allow domestic violence victims who are gay or illegal immigrants or American Indians to benefit from these programs."
On how likely Cantor and Biden will be able to reach a deal: "I think that in a strange way, all this talk that we're giving to the fiscal cliff talks creates sort of a shied for negotiations to happen on several bills like this. This often happens at the end of a Congress that when lobbying attention, the public's attention, the leadership's attention is turned elsewhere; things can pop to the surface.
On bills that don't get passed going back to the drawing board in 2013: "Yes, that's the way it works in our system of democracy -- no matter how close you get to the finish line on legislation, you have only two years to get there, and if you don't get it all the way there, you have to start right from zero in January.