The House voted this evening to approve the Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act, also known as VAWA, 222-205. The bill would have failed had it not won the support of six Democrats.
Twenty-three Republicans voted against the bill with most of the House Democratic Caucus.
House Speaker John Boehner said that the legislation provides the tools necessary “to prevent these crimes from occurring, protect the victims of these crimes when those efforts fail, and bring those responsible to justice.” He urged the Senate to work out the differences with the GOP bill in a timely manner in order to get a final bill to the president.
“In the 18 years since the Violence Against Women Act was first enacted, Congress has twice acted in a broad, bipartisan fashion to reauthorize the law. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats are, by their own admission, attempting to exploit the issue in hopes of generating ‘fodder’ for election-year campaign ads,” Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in a statement after the vote. “It is not only a cynical ploy, but a dangerous one for those depending on the resources and protections provided under the law.”
Vice President Joe Biden also released a statement following the vote, contending that the GOP’s version, which the White House has threatened to veto, “will roll back critical provisions to help victims of abuse.”
“I urge Congress to come together to pass a bipartisan measure that protects all victims,” Biden stated. “VAWA has been improved each time it’s been reauthorized, and this time should be no different.”
One key disagreement was over a provision for Native Americans that was included in the Senate legislation. The GOP legislation enables battered Native Americans to file in U.S. District Court for a protection order against an abusive spouse, whether Indian or not, who commits abuse on Indian land. The White House and other Democrats prefer the Senate’s version, granting tribal courts the ability to prosecute offenders — a provision Republicans believe is unconstitutional. Current law prevents non-Indians from being prosecuted by tribal courts for crimes committed on tribal land, as decided by the Supreme Court in 1978.
The Department of Justice recommended changing the law to give tribal courts jurisdiction, but the Republican bill does not go that far.
“The Senate version extends new protections to Native Americans and to all who are targeted, regardless of sexual orientation,” Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md, said on the House floor before the vote. “Isn’t that our value, to protect every individual? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all individuals are endowed by their creator.’ Shouldn’t we protect all individuals? Not exclude some?”
With two different versions having passed each chamber of Congress, lawmakers will have to come together to reconcile the differences between the two bills.
The six Democrats voting with the GOP majority were Reps. John Barrow of Georgia, Shelley Berkley of Nevada, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota.