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House passes renewed effort to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

The House on Wednesday voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act after the legislation expired in 2018 and a bid to reintroduce it in 2019 failed to gain traction in the Senate. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
The House on Wednesday voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act after the legislation expired in 2018 and a bid to reintroduce it in 2019 failed to gain traction in the Senate. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 17 (UPI) -- The House on Wednesday passed legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, originally authored by President Joe Biden during his time in Congress.

The measure, which seeks to provide state and local funding for programs assisting victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking as well as close the so-called boyfriend loophole for gun purchases, passed by a vote of 224-172.

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It was passed largely along party lines with 29 Republicans joining Democrats in voting to approve the measure.

"Women cannot go back. Women cannot continue in an intimidated fashion to tragically be subject to men who violently attack them. That is what this legislation is about," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.

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Jackson Lee reintroduced the bill along with Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.

The original legislation written by Biden as a senator from Delaware expired in 2018 after Democrats and Republicans failed to reach an agreement on plans to extend and update the measure.

In 2019, the House passed a version of the measure, but it was not taken up by the Republican-held Senate.

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One point of contention has been a provision that would extend restrictions preventing spouses or formerly married partners convicted of domestic violence or abuse from purchasing firearms to also include dating partners.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is working on a GOP alternative to the measure in the Senate as Republicans and the National Rifle Association have objected to the firearm provision.

"Certainly we ran into hiccups with some of the gun issues and that's a big one for a number of us," Ernst said. "Stripping away people's constitutional rights is not something that we should be doing."

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The Senate is currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote in the event of a tie.

Biden on Wednesday applauded the House for passing the measure and urged the Senate to do the same, describing domestic violence as an "urgent crisis" exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"While we have made significant progress, there is still much work to do. As many as 1 in 3 women are subjected to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking at some point in their lives and the rate is even higher for women of color, Native American women and members of the LGBTQ community," Biden said.

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