Violence Against Women Act Senate Vote Next Week

January 28, 2013

Jeanne Shaheen, Dianne Feinstein, Patty MurrayBy ,Huffington Post, WASHINGTON — The Senate will vote early next week to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, senior Democratic aides told The Huffington Post on Monday.

The Senate has been moving with lightning speed to get VAWA up and out the door. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced their bill last Tuesday and, a day later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that he was expediting it to the floor and bypassing the committee process.

Leahy’s bill is similar to what he introduced in the last Congress: it reauthorizes VAWA and adds new protections for members of the LGBT community and Native Americans. The biggest change from last year’s version is it nixes a provision to increase the number of visas for immigrant victims of violence. Leahy took that provision out to keep House Republican leaders from accusing him of having a “blue slip” problem; instead, he plans to attach it to immigration reform legislation.

The Senate VAWA bill had broad bipartisan support last year and is expected to receive the same this time. The looming question is how the House plans to proceed. Last year, House Republican leaders refused to give the Senate bill a vote, arguing that its new protections were politically driven. Instead, they removed the protections and passed their own pared-down bill, which had no support in the Senate and ultimately led to VAWA not being reauthorized by the time Congress adjourned. That failure marked the first time the law has been allowed to expire since its inception in 1994.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have remained mum on how they plan to proceed. Spokespeople for both of their offices did not respond to a request for comment. But there have been rumblings that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who chairs the House Republican Conference, may take the lead on the issue. Tribal groups met privately with McMorris Rodgers last week and had nothing but praise for the congresswoman’s openness to moving a broad bill.

McMorris Rodgers spokeswoman Riva Litman on Monday wouldn’t say whether the congresswoman will sponsor the House bill, but confirmed she is involved in talks.

“The Congresswoman is playing an active role in moving VAWA forward on the House side — and she recognizes the importance of getting something passed as soon as possible,” said Litman.

A Democratic leadership aide predicted VAWA will coast to passage in the Senate when it comes up for a vote next week, which means the onus will be on House Republican leaders to advance the issue.

“That will put us right back in the same position with Boehner and Cantor having to choose between appeasing the far right or getting VAWA passed with the help of moderates in their own party,” said the aide. “So far, the silence from the House Republican leadership has been a troubling sign that they may once again put VAWA and the protection of millions of women at risk.”

From left, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., talk to reporters about reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that was passed originally in 1994, Wednesday, April 18, 2012, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)