Patrick Leahy ruthlessly dogs Jeff Sessions over his opposition to the Violence Against Women Act

Patrick Leahy.
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) relentlessly pressed Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) about the decision to vote against the Violence Against Women Act during Sessions' attorney general hearing Tuesday.

VAWA was signed into law in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, and faced opposition by 22 Republican senators during its 2012 renewal due in part to the fact that it proposed to extend protections to same-sex couples and Native Americans, and would allow battered illegal immigrants to obtain temporary visas. Sessions specified Tuesday that "he didn't like one particular and 'concerning' provision regarding how it would be expanded to cases on tribal lands."

In 2013, Sessions said, "I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition." He added: "You think that's possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn't support, [so that] maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?"

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Leahy turned up the pressure on Sessions further Tuesday, asking if Sessions would defend the current VAWA and the provisions he opposed in it against a challenge. "I will defend the statute if it's reasonably defensible," Sessions replied.

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