VAWA Vote: Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Violence Against Women Act
WASHINGTON — The Senate easily passed its Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill on Tuesday, officially punting the issue to the House, where Republican leaders still haven’t signaled how they plan to proceed.
The bill passed 78 to 22. It already had 62 cosponsors, which ensured its passage, but it picked up additional support from a handful of Republicans who weren’t already sponsoring it.
Senators who voted against the bill included Republicans John Barrasso (Wyo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch (Utah), James Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), John Thune (S.D.) and Tim Scott (S.C.).
Rubio, who put out a statement on his VAWA stance Tuesday, will give the Republican response to President Barack Obama‘s State of the Union address later Tuesday evening.
Interestingly, a number of Republicans who voted against the VAWA bill last year ended up voting for it this year. They are GOP Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Jerry Moran (Kansas), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Thad Cochran (Miss.).
The bill authorizes $659 million over five years for VAWA programs. It also expands VAWA to include new protections for LGBT and Native American victims of domestic violence, to give more attention to sexual assault prevention and to help reduce a backlog in processing rape kits. Created in 1994, VAWA has helped to strengthen programs and services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
Ahead of the vote, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the bill’s sponsor, questioned why anybody would vote against his legislation since it just expands protections to vulnerable groups.
“It is difficult to understand why people would come in here and try to limit which victims could be helped by this legislation,” Leahy said. “If you’re the victim, you don’t want to think that a lot of us who have never faced this kind of problem, sat here in this body and said, ‘Well, we have to differentiate which victims America will protect.’”