Yesterday the Senate passed S. 47, The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with strong bipartisan support. Enacted in 1994, VAWA was intended to strengthen programs and services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. The bill, cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Michael Crapo (R-ID), authorizes $659 million over five years for VAWA programs. It also expands and strengthens protections for all victims of violence (including LGBT and Native American victims). Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) offered an amendment, which passed without objection, that would expand services for child victims of sex trafficking. A similar amendment which would target human trafficking also passed. The Senate bill does not include a provision protecting undocumented immigrants, but Leahy has pledged to push the provision in future immigration reform.
The bill now heads to the House where leadership has yet to indicate if and when the House would consider companion legislation. In recent years, Republican objections to provisions that expanded protections for LGBT, Native American and undocumented immigrant victims of violence has stymied passage in the House. This year however, over a dozen House Republicans have urged Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor to pass a bipartisan house bill. At President Obama’s State of the Union address last night, he acknowledged the Senate’s passage of VAWA and urged the House to do the same.