Mar 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House votes to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

Pelosi and Biden

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House voted 242-172 on Wednesday to reauthorize the lapsed Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which gives legal protections to women who have experienced domestic and sexual violence.

Why it matters: The original landmark 1994 law, sponsored by then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Joe Biden, expired in 2019. President Biden promised to reauthorize VAWA during his campaign.

  • In a statement earlier this month, Biden urged both chambers of Congress to"come together in a bipartisan manner to ensure swift passage of VAWA legislation."
  • "Domestic violence is being called a pandemic within the COVID-19 pandemic, with growing evidence showing that the conditions of the pandemic have resulted in escalated rates of intimate partner violence, and in some cases more severe injuries," the president said.

Details: The bill expands aid and services for victims and survivors of domestic violence, and authorizes funding for grants and other forms of support for groups working with survivors.

  • The legislation ensures that unemployment benefits cannot be denied to individuals who leave jobs due to sexual harassment or assault, domestic or dating violence or stalking, CNN reports.
  • It also closes the so-called "boyfriend loophole" in gun laws by banning dating partners convicted of domestic violence from owning and purchasing guns. The restriction currently only applies to married or divorced couples.
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Brain Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) introduced the bill to reauthorize VAWA on International Women's Day.

What to watch: The House voted in 2019 to reauthorize the legislation shortly after it expired, but it did not pass the then-Republican controlled Senate.

  • Democrats now control the Senate with a razor-thin majority, but it's unclear whether VAWA will win enough Republican votes to reach the 60-vote filibuster-proof threshold.
  • The legislation has been reauthorized three times — in 2000, 2005 and 2013.
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