A grand total of 87 House Republicans broke away from their party on Thursday to join with Democrats in passing the Senate's bipartisan extension of the Violence Against Women Act (PDF) by a vote of 286 to 138.
All 138 votes in opposition were cast by Republican legislators, with six abstaining.
“The Violence Against Women Act has long ensured that no woman would ever be forced to suffer in silence in the face of domestic violence and abuse," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement. "Democrats were committed to keeping that promise – that’s why we led the charge to enact the strong, bipartisan Senate bill and secure a victory for all women, no matter their background or community."
The law, enacted in 1994, provides funding for battered spouse shelters and gives law enforcement better tools to investigate reports of domestic violence. It was allowed to lapse at the end of 2011 due to Republican opposition to the inclusion of protections for undocumented immigrants, LGBT people and Native Americans.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) both attempted to amend the Senate's bill to remove those protections in the Senate, but their efforts were stymied by female Senators of both parties, who later supported the bipartisan version of the bill when it came up for a vote on Feb. 12, leading it to pass 78 to 22.
A similar process took place in the House, with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introducing a version that also absconded with special protections for minority groups. However, 60 House Republicans voted against Rodgers' bill and it failed to pass, 257 to 166.
Once that bill failed, House Republican leadership was left with little choice but to bring the Senate's version up for a vote, which cleared the chamber easily on Thursday.
“For over 500 days women have been waiting and praying for this day to come,” Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) said in prepared remarks. “Today, the majority of this body stood up for all women – including Native, LGBT and immigrant women. We answered their clarion call and declared that we will protect the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking."
“Today is an important day for victims of domestic and sexual violence, as Congress has finally come together to pass the Senate's Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill and voice our united support for victim protections,” Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) added. “House Republicans delayed this vote for far too long, but today the bill sailed through the chamber with bipartisan support. It's clear that this is not a Democratic or Republican issue—it is about protecting women, children, and all victims of abuse.”
"I was pleased to see the House of Representatives come together and vote to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act," President Barack Obama said in an advisory. He is expected to sign the law back into effect shortly.
Photo: Flickr user Leader Nancy Pelosi, creative commons licensed.