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VAWA passes Senate, turning attention to House

By Hajer Naili   |   Feb. 13, 2013 at 5:34 PM   |   Comments

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{WOMENSENEWS}-- The U.S. Senate voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act Tuesday afternoon in a 78-to-22 vote, Think Progress reported Feb. 12.

The version passed by the Senate today will go to the House for a vote, where it is expected to encounter some difficulties House Republicans, particularly over the protections of tribal women included in the bill.

Seventeen House Republicans wrote to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) Monday night urging them to "immediately" pass a bipartisan VAWA bill. They didn't specifically endorse the Senate bill, however, The HuffPost reported Feb.11.

The bill authorizes $659 million over five years for VAWA programs. It also expands VAWA to include new protections for LGBT and Native American victims of domestic violence, to give more attention to sexual assault prevention and to help reduce a backlog in processing rape kits.

“We urge the House of Representatives to follow the Senate and pass an inclusive, bi-partisan VAWA bill, so that YWCAs across the country can continue to provide safe harbor for the many women who seek protection from violence,” Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, CEO of YWCA USA, said in a press statement.

The chair of Lesbian Superpac, or LPAC, called on sympathizers to demand passage by the House. “An important piece to note is that this re-authorization includes protections for Native American women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as well,” Sarah Schmidt, wrote in an e-mail. “This is a hugely important moment for women and LGBT people across the country. We all deserve protections against violence.”

“As the primary federal law providing legal protection and services to victims of gender violence, VAWA is critical to women's safety," Elizabeth Brundige, executive director of the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell University Law School, said in press statement. " New provisions expand its protections for groups that have traditionally fallen through the cracks, prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people by federally funded domestic violence programs and granting tribal courts jurisdiction to handle cases involving domestic violence committed on tribal lands against Native American women by non-Native men.”

Of those opposing the legislation, all 22 senators were Republican men. Every female senator voted in favor.

The text had 62 cosponsors, which left little doubt about its passage.

The bill picked up new support from a handful of Republicans, The HuffPost reports.

Senators who voted against the bill included Republicans John Barrasso (Wyo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch (Utah), James Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.).

VAWA was created in 1994 to help strengthen programs and services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

Two Senators — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) — tried and failed to amend the bill, Think Progress reports.

Grassley’s amendment, voted down last week, stripped all Native American, LGBT, and undocumented victim protections. Cornyn’s tried to strip language on tribal lands, which failed Monday.

Ahead of the vote, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the bill's sponsor, questioned why anybody would vote against his legislation since it just expands protections to vulnerable groups, reports The HuffPost.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 95 allied organizations applauded the adoption of the bill. “We now urge the House to move beyond the obstruction of the last Congress and quickly pass this bill,” said the coalition in a press statement.

The Senators also voted on a few amendments.

They voted 93 to 5 to include a provision targeting human trafficking, and 100 to 0 on a provision to ensure child victims of sex trafficking are eligible for grant assistance.

They rejected amendments by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to consolidate certain Department of Justice programs and to allow grants for sexually transmitted disease tests on sexual assault perpetrators.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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