House Gives Final Passage To Expanded Violence Against Women Act

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The Republican-led House on Thursday passed the Democrats’ version of the Violence Against Women on Thursday, relenting after a painful battle over expanded protections for gay, Native American and illegal immigrant women.

The final vote was 286-138, winning over 199 Democrats and 87 Republicans. It lost 138 GOP members. It’s the third time Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has brought legislation to a floor vote without the support of at least half his conference. The GOP’s substitute failed 166-257.

Because the same bill has already passed the Senate, it will go straight to President Obama, who said he looks forward to signing it into law.

“I was pleased to see the House of Representatives come together and vote to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act. Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed the way we treat victims of abuse,” Obama said in a statement. “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 GOP leadership’s decision — after blocking the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act for nearly a year — eliminates an issue that has been politically toxic for Republicans and fueled charges by Democrats that the party was waging a “war on women.” The original House GOP plan, as of last week, was to pass its own limited version of the reauthorization and go to conference with the Senate. But after anti-domestic-violence advocates slammed the GOP’s alternative, they decided to fold.

The House GOP leadership gave a nod to conservatives with a procedural move to hold a vote on their version first and, only if it were to fail, allow a vote on Senate-passed version. The open secret is they knew the GOP version would not pass — that conservatives and Democrats would kill it, which is what happened.

Some conservative advocates — including the Heritage Foundation and RedState editor Erick Erickson — saw the procedural move as a blatant surrender, and threatened to target Republicans who voted in favor of the plan with the expanded provisions.

Democrats and advocates against domestic violence immediately praised passage of the inclusive reauthorization. The House vote brings the long, drawn out battle to an end.

“Victims of violence and their advocates are breathing a collective sigh of relief today, knowing that this critical bill is on its way to President Obama for signature. We commend those who stood in support of victims and put the needs of those suffering from abuse ahead of partisan politics,” said Kim Gandy, the president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “These Representatives, and the Senators who voted in favor of the bipartisan VAWA, have renewed our nation’s commitment to protecting victims of domestic and sexual violence.”

This article has been updated since publication.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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