February 13, 2013

Violence Against Women Act through Senate, awaits House

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — By a robust bipartisan majority, the Senate voted Tuesday to renew the Violence Against Women Act with new assurances that gays and lesbians, immigrants and Native American women will have equal access to the act's anti-domestic violence programs.

The 78-22 Senate vote to reauthorize the two-decade-old act that has shielded millions of women from abuse and helped reduce national rates of domestic violence turns the focus to the House, where Republican leaders are working to come up with their own version.

Maine Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, voted with the majority.

"Over 160 million women across the country are watching and waiting to see if the House will act on this bill and finally provide them the protections from violence they deserve," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

The act expired in 2011, putting efforts to improve its many federal programs on hold. Last year both the Republican-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate passed renewal bills, but they were unable to reach a compromise.

This year House Republicans, sensitive to their lackluster showing among women voters in the November election, have vowed to move expeditiously on the issue. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has taken the lead in negotiating the terms of a House bill.

On Monday, 17 House Republicans wrote Cantor and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, urging immediate action. The act's "programs save lies, and we must allow states and communities to build upon the successes of current VAWA programs so that we can help even more people," they wrote.

The Senate bill, while promoted by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and other Democrats, is cosponsored by a Republican, Mike Crapo of Idaho, and garnered 23 Republican votes. All 20 women members of the Senate voted for the bill.

President Obama said the bill "will help reduce homicides that occur from domestic violence, . . . and provide justice to the most vulnerable among us."

During debate, the major divisive issue was a provision that allows tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians accused of assaulting Indian women on reservations. Republicans, arguing that subjecting non-Indians to Indian courts was unconstitutional, offered two amendments to strip that section from the bill, but both were defeated.

 

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