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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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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