Friday March 08, 2013 | 12:11 PM

WASHINGTON – Vice President Joe Biden told Maine Sen. Susan Collins “we owe you” for helping push for passage of a bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

Collins, a Republican, was among eight members of Congress who were invited to stand on stage at a Washington auditorium as President Barack Obama signed the bill on Thursday. First enacted in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act funds state, federal and local programs aimed at reducing incidents of domestic violence, providing services to the abused and prosecuting the abusers.

During his introductory remarks, Biden individually thanked most of the lawmakers on stage. When he got to Collins, Biden joked that he didn’t want to get her in trouble “but I know she really likes me because I like her a lot.”

“But seriously, it was Republicans coming and standing up and saying this has to be done in the Senate,” Biden said. “So we owe you. We owe you big.”

Congress had allowed the act to expire in 2011 amid partisan disagreement over Democrats’ attempts to expand the bill’s scope to offer protections for gays and lesbians, illegal immigrants and Native Americans. A narrower Republican re-authorization bill also failed.

But the measure gained political traction following the November elections as Republicans began to openly fret about the party’s reputation among women voters.

Collins as well as former Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine were co-sponsors of the 2011 bill to re-authorize the act. Collins was also a co-sponsor of the bill that passed the Senate. All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation voted to re-authorize the act.

 

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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