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Violence Against Women Act set for Senate approval

It was just last week that Senate proponents of the Violence Against Women Act re-introduced the measure that died in the last Congress, and supporters
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.)

It was just last week that Senate proponents of the Violence Against Women Act re-introduced the measure that died in the last Congress, and supporters already have enough support to overcome a possible Republican filibuster.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., announced Thursday that he has built a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority to advance the Violence Against Women Act -- an 18-year-old measure protecting domestically abused Americans that lapsed at the end of last Congress when lawmakers failed to approve its reauthorization. [...]According to the Judiciary Committee, which Leahy leads, the seven Republicans who will join Democrats to support the measure are Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

The Senate version has been tweaked from the version considered last year, with sponsors scuttling a provision on law-enforcement visas given to undocumented immigrants who've been the victim of domestic violence. Democrats did this for procedural reasons -- it gives the House fewer excuses to ignore the bill -- and expect to address this in a comprehensive immigration reform bill, so the issue isn't being dropped altogether.

VAWA supporters in the Senate did not, however, get rid of LGBT provisions or a measure that extends tribal courts limited jurisdiction to oversee domestic violence offenses committed against Native American women by non-Native American men on tribal land.

House Republicans have balked at these provisions in the past, but at least for now, senators don't care.

The next question, of course, is whether VAWA will pass.

In the Senate, success is now assured. The bill was easily reauthorized in the last Congress -- though 31 Republican men voted against it anyway -- and in light of Leahy's announcement yesterday, VAWA should face minimal resistance this year. We can expect a vote this month, perhaps as early as next week.

And what of the House, which killed the law last year? Sahil Kapur noted we still don't know what to expect.

House Republican leaders have for weeks declined to reveal how they intend to proceed on VAWA. And they're still holding their cards close to the vest."The House is continuing to work with VAWA advocates on the best path forward to ensure we protect women and prosecutor offenders," said a House GOP leadership aide.

If I had to guess, I'd say House Republicans give in on this and it passes this year. Boehner & Co. don't want this hanging over them -- VAWA's demise has become a higher-profile issue recently -- and probably don't want to run the risk of making the gender gap even worse.

It's hardly a lock, and House GOP leaders have made plenty of inexplicable decisions in recent memory, but I'm cautiously optimistic.