The 113th Congress is now underway, and one of the most important pieces of bipartisan business should be the passage of the Violence Against Women Act—the reauthorization of the landmark law first enacted in 1994 that strengthens law enforcement and provides resources to service providers so they can respond to domestic violence and sexual assault in our country. The reauthorization bill should have been passed after the law expired more than a year ago, but for the first time in the history of this legislation, the bill failed to make it through Congress and onto the president’s desk.
The expired law leaves victims, domestic violence shelters, and law enforcement across the country wondering why a law that had previously sailed through Congress for two previous reauthorizations has become the latest representation of partisan gridlock. Although the Senate passed a bill in April with a now-rare supermajority of 68 senators, including every female member, House leadership failed to reach a compromise before the end of the 112th Congress, which means it now has to be introduced in the 113th Congress. This was largely due to the House leadership’s inability to accept enhanced protections for gay* and transgender, immigrant, and Native American women.
Congress has a new opportunity this week to show the country that domestic violence is too important to get held up in partisan maneuvering, particularly in the House. Members of both the House and Senate reintroduced bills on Tuesday to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 47, the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2013, which already has 16 bipartisan co-sponsors. The bill is nearly identical to S. 1925, the bipartisan Senate bill passed in April. Minor changes were made to revenue-generating provisions in the bill that deal with protections for immigrant victims of violence because the Constitution mandates that all bills that generate any revenue must be first introduced in the House. This provision was one of the stated reasons that House leadership held up reauthorization of the law in the previous Congress, even though it is common practice with other laws for the House to pass a simple “fixer” bill.
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