On Thursday afternoon, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Originally co-authored by then-Senator Joe Biden and Rep. Louise Slaughter in 1994, it provides funding for programs that encourage the prevention and prosecution of abuse against women. The landmark legislation has been reauthorized by Congress about every five years since its first introduction. This year, however, Congress allowed VAWA to expire when it was left out of February’s huge spending bill that ended the partial government shutdown.
Ahead of the House vote, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) took to the floor to give an impassioned speech about her own experiences with domestic violence.
Through each reauthorization, legislators have sought to extend VAWA’s reach and close various loopholes that older versions may have included—in 2013, it was amended to include same-sex couples. In its most recent iteration, Democrats hope to close the “boyfriend loophole,” which previously allowed partners who have been convicted of abuse to purchase a firearm, drawing the opposition of the NRA. “The gun control lobby and anti-gun politicians are intentionally politicizing the Violence Against Women Act as a smokescreen to push their gun control agenda,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told NPR.
But while 33 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor of VAWA, the GOP-controlled Senate is likely to shoot it down. That body hopes to pass what they call a “clean” version of the bill, which extends the funding, but excludes the Democratic add ons. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) are currently working on their own bipartisan version of the reauthorization, though no information about the inclusion of the House provisions is yet known.