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Jeff Fortenberry

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry 

On April 4, the House voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Unfortunately, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry still couldn’t see his way to supporting it, though, this time around, he voted “present,” instead of “yea” or “nay.”

Some background: In 2013, Fortenberry voted against reauthorizing the version of the act that passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support, voting instead for a House GOP version that failed.

His office then issued a misleading statement, proclaiming “Fortenberry today supported legislation to reauthorize the [VAWA],” not making it clear he voted for the watered-down version that didn’t pass. (After being called out by constituents, his office revised the statement.)

In a letter to the editor in the Journal Star, Fortenberry explained he voted against the majority-backed version of the bill “because of several concerns, including its potential effect on relief services for victims of human trafficking.” This is vintage Fortenberry — express vague concerns but so opaquely that no one really knows what you’re saying.

Fast-forward to 2019. Presumably, Fortenberry knew a “no” vote on VAWA would look bad but also that a “yes” vote would negatively affect his National Rifle Association rating, per the NRA’s “key vote” alert against the bill. Did either of these factors influence his vote?

Hard to tell from his statement: “I voted present because I reject the premise that Congressional dynamics prevented us from partnering on such an essential issue as [VAWA]. I refused to support a bad no vote; I refused to support a bad yes vote.”

Opaque enough for you?

Susan Knisely, Lincoln

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