VAWA Expansion Endangered by Split Senate Vote


A proposed expansion of the federal Violence Against Women Act to aid “underserved” populations is in jeopardy after solid Republican opposition at a Senate markup yesterday.

Women's advocates are pushing a version of the 17-year-old law that would give more power to Native Americans to prosecute cases on their lands and to help groups like women in the military and victims of sex traffickers.

Led by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, all eight GOP panel members voted against the expanded version of the bill. The measure was approved, 10 to 8, and will be sent to the Senate floor.

Even if it should pass the Senate, similar Republican opposition in the House, where the GOP has a solid majority, would likely block an expanded bill in an election year when there is relatively little time to consider legislation. The core VAWA provisions likely would remain intact.

Grassley listed a number of other provisions he opposed. He said that although some measures he favored to strengthen accountability of grantees were added to the bill, they did not go far enough. The senator said the “very good” law should continue in force at least in its current form.

Delays in passage are unfortunate, he said, “because when we have a united front against any kind of violence, whether it’s against women or anybody else, the better off we’re going to be in conquering it throughout all of society.”

Paulette Sullivan Moore of the National Network to End Domestic Violence remains optimistic that VAWA will be reauthorized this year because members of Congress seeking re-election are unlikely to oppose a popular anticrime law aimed at helping women.

She called yesterday’s split committee vote “unfortunate,” saying that Republicans “decided that certain categories of women meant less than other categories of women.”

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT.), a co-sponsor of the expanded bill, said it was “disheartening” to hear Republicans “saying we seek to protect too many victims.”

Leahy, a former prosecutor, added, “Don’t pick and choose among victims–they all count.”

Leahy called the expanded bill bipartisan, noting that some Republicans not on the committee support it. The co-sponsor is Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID.)

Leahy noted that the bill approved by the committee, which was supported by the Obama administration, would cut the maximum amount of federal money for VAWA by about 20 percent.

Editor’s Note: For more on VAWA, read TCR’s coverage from earlier this week, “VAWA at the Crossroads.”

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