After much delay and debate, the Senate approved a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), legislation more than 15 years old which helps victims of domestic and sexual violence.
The Senate voted 68-31 for the VAWA re-authorization. The 31 senators who voted no not only all were Republicans — they also all were men.
In the end, all of the female senators — including each of the Republican — ultimately voted in support VAWA. In some cases, the GOP women wound up supporting the VAWA re-authorization bill even after having complained about it earlier.
Sen. Olympia Snowe of the Maine, who is retiring this year due to what she calls too much partisanship in the Senate, is the female Republican who perhaps backed VAWA most strongly.
In voting for VAWA, Snowe cited statistics which say that reporting of domestic violence has increased as much as 51 percent, while the annual incidence of domestic violence has fallen by more than 50 percent.
“This bill the Senate passed today successfully builds upon past strides at both the state and federal levels,” she says. “It includes a number of judicial improvements, such as encouraging the use of best practices among law enforcement and court personnel to better assess the risk of domestic violence homicide and to provide immediate, crisis intervention services for those at risk of escalating violence. It also reauthorizes grants to encourage arrest policies and enforce protection orders, and places an increased emphasis on reducing rape kit backlogs which number in the hundreds of thousands. I urge the House to take immediate action, so we can get this critical legislation to the President’s desk.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also voted for VAWA, despite some concerns over jurisdictional issues with native people in her home state.
“This evening 363 Alaskans will spend the night in an emergency domestic violence shelter or transitional housing provided by the Alaska domestic violence program. Programs like the Lake Shore Center in Kenai, the safe shelter in Dillingham, the wish shelter in Ketchikan, the AWAIC shelter in Anchorage. The number of Alaskans that are seeking shelter is rising on the order of 5 percent a year. These programs and the Alaskans who benefit from them are all supported by the Violence Against Women Act,” Murkowski says in explaining her vote.
Perhaps the most conservative of the Senate women, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), also finally came out for VAWA, even after the Senate rejected amendments to the bill offered by her and her Lone Star State colleague, Republican Sen. John Cornyn. Hutchison described the re-authorization introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) as “a bill with many good parts. But there are some areas of disagreement.”
Hutchison also voiced optimism that the Republican-controlled House would also approve a VAWA re-authorization.
“I know the House is going to pass a bill. They are introducing their own. We will go to conference on this bill and we will come out with a good bill if everyone will cooperate,” she says. “We are all on the same path.”
WATCH A VIDEO OF SEN. MURKOWSKI DISCUSS THE VAWA BILL HERE:
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.