Senate Democrats Achieve 60 Votes For Violence Against Women Act

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in a photo taken in September 2012.
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Next up in the Senate: The Violence Against Women Act.

Senate Democrats have achieved the 60 votes necessary to bypass a filibuster and reauthorize the domestic violence legislation.

“JUST TOPPED ‘magic number’ of 60 bipartisan cosponsors of my #VAWA legisl.; We’re moving briskly toward Senate vote on the Leahy-Crapo Bill,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) wrote Thursday afternoon on Twitter.

The seven Republicans who have joined 53 Democrats in support of the legislation are Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME), Mike Crapo (ID), Dean Heller (NV), Mark Kirk (IL), Jerry Moran (KS) and Lisa Murkowski (AK).

A floor vote is expected as early as next week.

“The Leahy-Crapo VAWA bill seeks to protect all victims of domestic and sexual violence, including tribal women, college students, and members of the LGBT community,” Leahy said in a statement Friday. “For nearly 20 years, the programs supported by VAWA have been a lifeline to so many. They deserve swift action in Congress.”

VAWA originally passed in 1994 and was reauthorized without incident in 2000 and 2005. It expired in 2011 but has continued to receive funds. The reauthorization has fallen prey to disputes between a Senate supermajority and House Republicans on whether to expand coverage to gays, illegal immigrants, college students and Native Americans.

The Senate bill dropped a provision to expand the number of U Visas available for abused undocumented immigrants to achieve legal status, which law enforcement consider useful in helping prosecute offenders by encouraging victims to speak up. The reason for omitting that, Leahy said, was that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) objected to it, noting that it raises some revenue and bills that do so must originate in the House.

“Women across the country are going to be watching the House Republicans leadership’s response very closely,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) told TPM. “I know that there are moderate House Republicans who want to join with the large coalition of bipartisan Senators to get this bill passed. It’s up to House Republican leadership to allow that to happen.”

Although the procedural objection made it easier for House Republicans to stonewall the Senate legislation, their more substantial gripes among conservatives have been with the expanded provisions, which require them to go to bat for constituencies that are hostile to their party.

House Republican leaders have for weeks declined to reveal how they intend to proceed on VAWA. And they’re still holding their cards close to the vest.

“The House is continuing to work with VAWA advocates on the best path forward to ensure we protect women and prosecutor offenders,” said a House GOP leadership aide.

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