After many months of struggle, the U.S. House finally passed the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday, 286-138. The bill will now head to President Obama to sign, which the president has made abundantly clear he will do.
On the bill's passing, Obama commented, "Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed the way we treat victims of abuse. Today’s vote will go even further by continuing to reduce domestic violence, improving how we treat victims of rape, and extending protections to Native American women and members of the LGBT community."
"Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk."
The act, which has struggled in Congress for over a year after expiring in 2011, had been reauthorized without much struggle multiple times in the past, but new provisions — particularly those surrounding the treatment of Native women in tribal courts — in the Senate-proposed version of the bill drew strong opposition from the Republican-dominated House. In 2012, the House proposed a version which did not include these new protections. The White House threatened to veto the House version of VAWA, as it not only did not include the new Senate provisions, but also undermined the core principles of the act. The 112th Congress failed to come to an agreement over VAWA in 2012; the bill was re-introduced by the 113th Congress in January.
The Senate passed its new version of VAWA on February 12th, 78 to 22, with strong bipartisan support. 17 House Republicans responded by writing to House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, urging them to pass a bipartisan version of VAWA. Earlier this week, Republicans revealed that if their bill failed to pass, they would consider the Senate version.
In the final vote, 138 House Republicans opposed VAWA while 87 voted for it and 6 did not vote; 199 Democrats voted aye and 1 did not vote.
Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said in a statement, "There is absolutely no reason that it should have taken this long for the House leadership to come around on a bill that had overwhelming bipartisan support. But passage today is a validation of what we’ve been saying since this bill expired in 2011 — VAWA has never been, and should never be, a partisan bill. That is why I applaud moderate Republican voices in the House who stood up to their leadership to demand a vote on the Senate bill. "