VAWA Act: Will the U.S. House Finally Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act?

This week, the Violence Against Women Act will once again make its way to the Senate for reauthorization. While the Senate has worked to move this bill swiftly through the judicial system, Congress may desert the nation’s victims once again, depending on the decisions of John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and the House of Representatives.

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced a bill in January that was almost identical to the one Leahy introduced in last year’s session. Their new act reauthorizes VAWA while adding new provisions to protect LGBT members and Native Americans. And since the SAFER Act was also mangled by Republicans, the new act also provides for audits of untested rape kits and gives law enforcement resources to help reduce the backlog of rape kits.

But the most noticeable change is the erasing of immigrants from the measure. There is no longer any measure to increase the number of visas for immigrant victims. According the House Republicans, this provision killed the effort because the visas would generate revenue from the victims. Leahy plans to attach a measure like this to a later legislation involving immigration reform.

Anxiety for VAWA supporters does not loom when the bill is in the Senate; it is the House that brings a dark cloud over their heads. The bill is expected to glide through the Senate, which leaves VAWA in the same state as last year. But this year, proponents of the legislation are better prepared. Leahy said he specifically took out any immigration talk so Republicans could not accuse him of having a “blue slip problem.” According to the Huffington Post, this term refers to the custom that the House has the ability to kill a bill that raises revenue if it originated in the Senate because the Constitution only allows the House to create such bills.

There is not much commotion concerning how the House will react to VAWA 2.0. However, the Huffington Post also reports that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair of the House Republican Conference, could possibly lead her fellow representatives in compromising on this bill. Rodgers' spokeswoman stated, "The congresswoman is playing an active role in moving VAWA forward on the House side — and she recognizes the importance of getting something passed as soon as possible.”

The second (and hopefully successful) attempt at reauthorizing VAWA will determine if Congress’ views align with those they are representing. Although 2013 brought a diverse group of leaders, the ever-persistent right is still desperately holding on to the white male majority America of the past. Women overwhelmingly voted for Democrats in 2012.

If Republicans want to win these women back, they will have to start letting go of the far right and search for their center. The first step towards recovery is reauthorizing VAWA. 

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