NOW with Alex Wagner | February 27, 2013
>>> what a relief it is!
>>> it has been almost a year since debate began on the renewal of the violence against women act . the 1994 law granted victims of sexual violence and assault what they needed. since the program was first passed, domestic violence rates dropped by 58%. while congress has been fighting this fight for quite awhile now, the saga may finally be coming to an end. the senate bill passed earlier this month extends protection to 30 million women . house republicans have their own version, one that waters down provisions for lgbt, immigrant and native women . at issue is whether to give the tribes it authority they need to protect women against men. it's something the house bill does not address. in a rare act, house republicans announced they will allow a vote on the senate version of the bill if their version fails to get the votes to move forward. joining us from capitol hill to help figure out what exactly is going on with the republicans , democratic senator from missouri, claire mccaskill . senator mccaskill, it's great to have you on the program. thank you for joining us.
>> thank you. that's a high bar if you expect me to figure out what the republicans are doing, especially this week, it's confusing.
>> it's an ongoing process, senator. let's talk about the dual bills here. is this a way to offer house republicans some smoke screen, to say they can vote for one version of the bill, but not the icky democratic version to offer more protection to women ?
>> i think this is john boehner trying to manage a difficult caucus. at news of this week is for the majority of women in this country, elections matter. the house republicans let this bill die last year. they didn't think it was that important. as somebody who is a prosecutor on the front lines when this legislation was passed, i know how many lives it has saved. i am thrilled they have relented and they are in a moment of sanity and pragmatism and public safety , they are going to let the strong bipartisan bill come for a vote. i'm confident it will pass. that will reassure the women in this country what they did made a difference.
>> behind enemy lines or inside the halls of congress, there seems to have been serious pushback from republicans on this. look, we can't have all these -- there was a letter sent from 17 republicans in the house. shelly was the author of it saying that we need to extend the protections to women including women on tribal reservations. 80% of sex crimes on reservations were committed by nonnative men. how would you begin to think they don't need protection under the law?
>> i think, once again, the extreme elements in the republican party held the rest of the republicans captive for too long on these issues. i think most americans want protections for victims of domestic violence no matter where they are, no matter what they look like and no matter who they love. i think this is a really important acknowledgement by the republicans that they need to get off the extreme fringe on these issues and join most of us in america that understand the protection of the law in this instance shouldn't be for some in this country, it should be for everyone.
>> maggie, we talk about the problems the republicans have coming out of the 2011 election. the female vote is something they haven't given a great amount of thought to. there's a lot of talk about the hispanic vote and push on immigration. you have candidates like richard and todd akin . here is a no brainer. this is a lay up. the fact there's been so much back and forth,forth. out reach to women that republicans need to get on their side.
>> one thing that's amazing to me throughout 2012 and after 2012 is the description of the women vote as if it was a niche vote, we are talking half the population.
>> this has been, i think, a source of ongoing curiosity. i think you are already seeing this being used against perspective 2016 homefuls. it's framed against chris christie , and marco rubio . christie may have helped himself with it yesterday in terms of the medicaid expansion in terms of a proargument. i think it has been a very overlooked piece. republicans say there's a legitimate reason for them to not go with the violence against women 's act. that's subject to discussion. i think it's clear that this is a broad area that has not been figured out that touches on various issues, health care , abortion. it's going to be an ongoing thing.
>> senator, i want to ask you about something sort of not unrelated but equally important. the gun control piece and the victory yesterday in illinois. mayor bloomberg poured a lot of money into that race. dianne feinstein is chairing a hearing and you have been involved in the issue. do you feel the tide is turning in terms of resistance to gun safety reform and the fact the nra is raising money and there could be a powerful and vocal answer to that lobby emerging in america ?
>> first of all, i think the vast majority of gun owners in america do not think like wayne lapierre and the nra. it's a good thing. i think the other thing that's clear to me is that even though i was raised in a very avid sportsman household where my father was a big hunter and i'm in a state where that is a very important part of our culture, i know the majority of people want us to have background checks on a universal basis. they are working on bipartisan efforts to get a bill ready that can pass. what i'm worried about is somebody will say no to universal background checks . it will be a terrible thing for our country and worse for the republican party .
>> thank you to senator claire mccaskill . we'll be sure to ask you more about the republican party . i don't think we figured out exactly what is going on with them quite yet. we appreciate your time.