The headline on U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' press release couldn't have been more clear: It said "Rothfus Votes to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act." Ditto the statement from U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's office: "Murphy Votes To Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act."
Except they didn't.
Both Western Pennsylvania Republicans voted against the version of the bill that passed the House by a vote of 286-138 last week. Just to be clear, they were among the 138 voting "No."
They weren't lying in their statements. Technically. Both congressmen had voted "Aye" on an earlier version of the bill, one introduced in the House that failed by a vote of 166-257. Their news releases explained that, but under the misleading headline.
What tripped them up was the Senate's version to reauthorize the landmark 1994 law that assists victims of domestic and sexual violence. S. 47 extended the rights provided under the law to gay, bisexual and transgender victims of domestic abuse, and it allows American Indian victims who are assaulted on reservations to take their cases to tribal courts.
Mr. Rothfus, and others, questioned whether giving those courts jurisdiction over assailants who do not live on tribal land might infringe on constitutional rights to due process and trial by jury.
Mr. Murphy explained in his statement that the version that was adopted "siphoned off resources from the original VAWA programs and directed tax dollars to a redefined population, despite the fact that 99 percent of domestic violence against women is perpetrated by a male partner (according to the Department of Justice.)"
Mr. Murphy noted, correctly, that current law already forbids discrimination by recipients of federal grant money, but what would have been the harm in applying the protections of the act to sexual minorities?
Based on the headlines atop their news releases, it seems like Mr. Rothfus and Mr. Murphy wanted people to believe they had voted in favor of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. They could have avoided any confusion simply by doing so.