The U.S Senate has renewed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), with 78 votes in favor and 22 against. According to Think Progress, all of the 22 votes against renewing the Act were Republican men, including rising GOP star, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R).
Republicans had threatened to obstruct VAWA, which is renewed every five years, over new provisions that would enshrine protections for LGBT people, immigrants and women on Native American reservations into the law. House Republicans proposed their own, watered down version of the legislation in 2012, but the House and Senate, unable to reconcile their versions of the legislation, allowed the VAWA to expire for the first time since its inception.
The VAWA was first passed in 1994 to address violence against women through stiffer sentences for violent perpetrators, guaranteeing women access to civil proceedings should prosecutors decline to press charges in a domestic violence case and by otherwise buttressing protections for women within the law. It was renewed without controversy in 2000 and 2005, but came up against Republican resistance this year.
Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) each attempted to tack amendments on to the Act that would annul the protections for undocumented immigrants, Native Americans and LGBTs. Each were voted down.
The VAWA is expected to meet resistance in the Republican-led House of Representatives, particularly over protections for Native American women. However, House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, who, along with now-Vice President Joe Biden, was one of the Act’s original sponsors, said in a statement, “Today, the Senate once again passed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act with a strong bipartisan vote of 78-22, and it is now up the House to follow suit. I was proud to have cosponsored the original Violence Against Women Act in 1994, and the Senate was right to move swiftly with this set of improvements to the Act, which are strongly supported by law enforcement and those who provide essential services to victims of domestic violence. The bill that now comes to the House will do more to protect immigrants, LGBT Americans, and those living on Native American tribal lands.
He continued, “I was disappointed that the House did not pass the Senate’s bipartisan bill last year, and I urge the House Republican leadership to change course and bring this bill to the Floor for a vote right away.”
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood of America, said in a statement, “We applaud the Senate for taking action to pass a long overdue reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and urge the House of Representatives to follow suit. There are few pieces of legislation that have delivered as greatly on their promise as the Violence Against Women Act. Any additional delay of its passage is deeply out of touch with the needs of women across the country.”