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Senate renews Violence Against Women Act, sending to House for action

 

The Senate approved legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act on Tuesday over the objections of a handful of Republicans.

Democrats were joined by several Republican senators in voting to renew the landmark gender and domestic violence law, which lapsed at the end of 2012 after lawmakers in the last Congress failed to reach agreement on a new extension.

Senators voted 78-22 to send their version of the bill to the Republican-controlled House, where it faces uncertain prospects.

Republicans have objected to elements of the reauthorization, most specifically a technical dispute over jurisdiction for Native American tribal authorities in the instances of certain crimes.

Still, proposals like the Violence Against Women Act have become a lightning rod in the realm of gender politics, especially as Democrats cast Republicans during last year’s election as leading a “war on women.” Democrats were all too eager to seize on GOP opposition to a contraception mandate, or controversial statements by Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock about rape.

Perhaps as that political pressure weighs upon Republicans, a group of 17 House GOP lawmakers wrote the party’s leadership on Tuesday urging them to take up the Senate bill passed this afternoon. If those Republicans were to join with every House Democrat in support of the bill, it would be enough to pass the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization in the House.

"Especially in communities like West Virginia where victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in rural and remote communities face unique obstacles in their efforts to escape abusive and dangerous relationships, support provided by VAWA can literally be lifesaving," said West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a relatively moderate Republican who's running for Senate in 2014. "I am urging House leaders to immediately reauthorize this essential Act."