This Texas Republican Would Really Prefer You Don’t Ask Him About the Violence Against Women Act

“You still want to keep running this camera, or you want to learn about this?” 

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, speaks with reporters as he leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol.Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP

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The Violence Against Women Act, a landmark law passed by Congress in 1994 aimed at protecting women who are victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence, is set to expire on December 7. And while two VAWA-related bills have been introduced in the House, including a long-term extension by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and other House Democrats, no Republicans have yet to sign on as co-sponsors.

So at a forum in Dallas on Thursday, a local TV reporter asked Texas Republican Rep. Pete Sessions about voting against VAWA reauthorization five years ago. Sessions, who is in the middle of a contentious reelection campaign against Democrat Colin Allred, a former NFL player turned civil rights attorney, decided to use the opportunity to mansplain to a reporter how Congress works.

A video of the exchange shows Sessions, chair of the House Rules Committee, going back and forth with NBC 5 reporter Laura Harris in an increasingly testy manner. Sessions said he supported the law but eventually told Harris she was “confused” before lecturing her on the difference between policy and appropriations. When Harris pushed him further, Sessions responded, “You still want to keep running this camera, or you want to learn about this?” 

After the clip surfaced, Allred’s campaign manager, Paige Hutchinson, tweeted that Sessions couldn’t defend his voting record, adding it was “time for new leadership.” 

Sessions, who has the backing of President Donald Trump, will greet Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Ted Cruz next week. A recent New York Times/Siena poll showed that the Sessions-Allred race remains tight, with Sessions up by a mere point. 

Meanwhile, Sessions isn’t the only lawmaker up for reelection whose support for VAWA has come into question lately. In another tight Texas race, Democrat Lizzie Fletcher called on incumbent Rep. John Culberson to support Lee’s bill and criticized him for failing to “stand with the women of Texas in addressing the epidemic of violence against women.” Culberson also voted against VAWA renewal in 2013. 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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