WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Thursday to support the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act, ending a yearlong battle on Capitol Hill to reauthorize legislation targeting domestic violence.
The bill expands protections to include same-sex couples, immigrants and Native Americans.
President Barack Obama is expected to quickly sign the bill into law, which comes nearly two decades after enactment of the initial law, which was authored by then-Sen. Joe Biden, who is now the vice president.
“The Violence Against Women Act has made a significant difference in combating domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, through grants to state and local governments and nonprofit organizations. Since its inception in 1994, the programs authorized under this law have provided state and local partners with more than $4.7 billion in assistance. This assistance helps to ensure the victims of violence get the help they need to recover, and has prevented incalculable suffering by stopping violent crimes before they happen,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
“I’ve long supported strengthening and updating these critical programs, and I’m pleased this bipartisan bill passed the House today. It streamlines current programs and will lead to smarter policies that will help combat violence in even more effective ways,” said Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine.
“It’s outrageous that partisan politics got in the way of continuing these basic protections for women,” Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine said. “The Violence Against Women Act has been reauthorized over and over again with wide bipartisan support and it even passed the Senate overwhelmingly, but then suddenly Republicans in the House decided that they would put politics over efforts to end violence on women.”
The 286-138 vote was carried by a united block of Democrats and a minority of the Republican majority in the House. An earlier vote on an alternative version of the bill that was drafted by Republicans failed 166-257.
Passage of the Senate bill by the House is the latest example of legislation winning approval without a majority of Republicans, who currently have a 32-seat advantage in Congress’ lower chamber.
After an election in which Democrats portrayed the GOP as hostile to women’s interests, and with Republicans divided on even their own version of the bill, House leaders agreed to allow a vote on the Democratic-favored version that had passed the Senate weeks ago by a lopsided 78-22 margin.
Republican objections were varied, from constitutional concerns over its provisions to procedural objections to how it was brought to the floor. But 19 House Republicans had signed a letter to leadership urging its swift consideration.
Los Angeles Times writer Wes Venteicher contributed to this report.
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