The reauthorization of VAWA—which expired in 2010 and has been in congressional limbo ever since–got a major boost yesterday when an expanded bill, including protections for LGBT, immigrants and native communities, overwhelmingly passed in the Senate 78 to 22.
Now the bill heads to the House from which there has been little indication of how leadership will proceed.
“The status quo is simply unacceptable and the Senate has today acted courageously on behalf of our society's most vulnerable, who deserve not only equal justice but also our unquestionable resolve to protect them,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement.
The landmark VAWA legislation—the first recognition that domestic violence required a national response—received widespread bipartisan support since it was passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005.
But despite early indications that it would be renewed easily, it became the focus of heated partisan quarrels in Congress.
Last April the Senate passed a more comprehensive version of the Violence Against Women Act (S. 1925). Sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) the legislation included provisions for strengthening protections for the LGBT communities, immigrant crime programs, housing protections, and increased concurrent jurisdictions for native communities. The expanded bill also provides enhanced protections for victims of sexual assault, improves safety on college campuses and strengthens housing protections.
But the expanded version of VAWA failed to gain traction in the House. The bill was dogged by persistent fraud accusations after audits conducted between 1998 and 2010 by the Justice Department's Inspector General found violations of grant requirements ranging from unauthorized and unallowable expenditures, to sloppy record keeping and failure to report in a timely manner.
However, many Congressional Republicans have called on their leadership to move forward and reauthorize VAWA.
“This issue should be beyond debate – the House should follow the Senate's lead and pass the Violence Against Women Act right away,” said Vice President Joe Biden, who negotiated the original VAWA bill, in a statement.