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Time Running Out for Violence Against Women Act

Lack of bipartisan sponsorship could slow process

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, lauded protections for Native American women in the reauthorization measure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, lauded protections for Native American women in the reauthorization measure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Violence Against Women Act will expire at the end of September if lawmakers don’t act on a bill to extend the protections introduced by Democrats just before the House leaves town for the August recess.

Congress first passed the landmark domestic violence law in 1993 and most recently reauthorized it in 2013. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer urged chamber Republicans not to hold up the new proposal by “playing politics.”

When House members return in September, they’ll have just 11 legislative days before the law lapses. In 2013, conservatives in the House GOP caucus opposed the bill after leadership brought the Senate version to the floor without committee consideration in the House.

Hoyer, a co-sponsor of the original 1993 bill, invited Republicans to join Democrats in backing the current iteration.

Watch: Democrats Hope to Extend Violence Against Women Act

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But consideration of the bill could be slowed because the measure goes beyond just extending the same protections under the existing law and because it was not proposed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. 

“Some wanted an extension, but we knew we had to answer the pain of many women,” said Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, sponsor of the reauthorization measure.

The new proposal includes provisions to help victims of domestic violence and stalking stay in stable housing situations and to bar evictions based on the actions of an abuser. It also includes an expansion of gun control laws aimed at prohibiting persons convicted of dating violence and stalking and those under protective orders from possessing firearms. Some states already have so-called red flag laws in place, with the aim of preventing escalation of violence.

“We will not stop fighting until this plague has been banished from our homes and communities,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

Jackson Lee lauded expanded protections for Native American women, improved tribal access to federal crime databases, and affirmation of tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators. Native populations are especially vulnerable with 84 percent of women on reservations experiencing some type of sexual violence in their lifetimes.

Pelosi pointed to the rise of the #MeToo movement and said increased focus on prevention and educating men and boys is an important part of the proposal.

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