Senate approves VAWA re-authorization, on to House

Supporters of the Violence Against Women Act rally in Washington, DC.
Supporters of the Violence Against Women Act rally in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In a final tally of 78 to 22, the Senate has approved the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a surprisingly controversial bill that aims to expand protections for female victims of violence and sexual abuse.

The bill’s next stop is with the Republican-led House of Representatives where supporters of VAWA are less confident that it will pass.

Among the 22 opponents were Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, the two GOP speakers expected to deliver rebuttals to President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday.

Rubio will speak on behalf of the Republican Party and Paul on behalf of the more conservative Tea Party.

In a statement released by Sen. Rubio Tuesday afternoon, he asserts that his ‘no’ vote stems from reservations he has about a section of the bill that would divert funding from domestic violence programs to sexual assault programs. He also mentions his concerns about the portion of the bill intended to help Native American women seek justice against their non-Indian attackers.

The White House also issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, praising the Senate for approving the bill and urging the House to follow suit.

Today the Senate passed a strong bipartisan bill to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act. This important step shows what we can do when we come together across party lines to take up a just cause. The bill passed by the Senate will help reduce homicides that occur from domestic violence, improve the criminal justice response to rape and sexual assault, address the high rates of dating violence experienced by young women, and provide justice to the most vulnerable among us. I want to thank Senator Leahy and his colleagues from both sides of the aisle for the leadership they have shown on behalf of victims of abuse. It’s now time for the House to follow suit and send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.

VAWA supporters have been steadily pushing the bill since last year when the Senate-approved version was left to die on the House floor.

In addition to its original purpose of expanding protections to female victims of rape and abuse, the newer bill was revised to include protections for gay and lesbian victims of domestic abuse and crimes against American Indians and immigrant women. Three groups that are especially vulnerable and all too often overlooked.

It’s these new provisions that Congressional Republicans say are holding up the approval process.

The Senate’s approval comes just days after it rejected a similar version of the bill because it stripped protections for LGBT women, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans.

The House of Representatives is expected to take up the measure in the coming weeks.