The House voted today to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by a vote of 287 to 138. None of the House Democrats voted against the bill, and 87 Republicans voted for the bill. The House GOP had a version of the bill that failed by a vote of 166 to 257. The version that passed the House today is considered to be more broad and includes protections for LGBT victims of abuse and includes provisions for human trafficking and the backlog of untested rape kits.
“President Barack Obama praised the House for passing the broader Senate bill and said he’ll sign it into law as soon as possible.
“Today’s vote will go even further by continuing to reduce domestic violence, improving how we treat victims of rape, and extending protections to Native American women and members of the LGBT community,” Obama said in a statement. “Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk.”
Throughout the debate, House Republicans maintained that their bill would have covered all women. But the reality is that it didn’t go as far as the bipartisan Senate bill. The House bill stripped out protections for LGBT victims of abuse, it didn’t give tribal courts new authority in certain domestic violence cases, and it added new eligibility restrictions for U visas for abused immigrant women. The House bill also entirely left out two separate measures attached to the Senate bill: the SAFER Act, which helps law enforcement address a backlog in untested rape kits, and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which targets human trafficking.
The House Republican bill appeared doomed before it hit the floor. It had zero support from Democrats, and a growing number of Republicans were saying they couldn’t support it. Seventeen House Republicans sent a letter to Boehner and Cantor earlier this month urging the passage of a bipartisan bill. Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said she planned to vote for the Senate bill, as did Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a leading voice on tribal issues.
The GOP bill “does not adequately recognize sovereignty” and fails to give tribal courts “the tools they need to combat violence against women,” Cole said in a statement, read aloud on the floor by a Democratic colleague.”
Many Democrats had been calling the version of VAWA that passed today the “real Violence Against Women’s Act” because it extended protections for more than a narrow group of domestic violence victims.
House Leader Nancy Pelosi said the following in a statement released upon the bill’s passage, “Today, a bipartisan majority of the House joined the Senate in reaffirming our pledge to America’s women and families, strengthening this landmark law, extending protection to LGBT Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants, and preserving the security of all women.”