The Senate finally passed the Violence Against Women Act. I suppose I should be thrilled. After all, the long-delayed vote was a whopping 78 to 22, and included support from a number of Republicans who initially opposed it. Even better, the Senate voted to add funds to protect victims of child sex trafficking and also added badly needed protection for Native American and LGBT communities. All told, the Senate voted to provide $659 million over five years to VAWA programs, including a provision that will strengthen sexual assault prevention.
Now the reauthorization of the 1994 act, which Congress had been dilly-dallying around with for months, at least has a chance of surviving. It’s now up to the House.
So then why do I feel so glum?
Because 22 male GOP senators voted against the bill--including presidential hopeful and GOP "savior" Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. (Who is also, not incidentally, giving the GOP response to Obama’s State of the Union address.) In doing so, they voted against protecting victims of domestic violence.
Here's the list of the other 21 naysayers, in case you were wondering:
John Barrasso (Wyo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch (Utah), James Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Marco Jeff Sessions (Ala.), John Thune (S.D.) and Tim Scott (S.C.).
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the bill’s sponsor, seemed to have a sense that this was going to happen:
It is difficult to understand why people would come in here and try to limit which victims could be helped by this legislation," he said before the vote. "If you're the victim, you don't want to think that a lot of us who have never faced this kind of problem, sat here in this body and said, 'Well, we have to differentiate which victims America will protect."
It’s great the Senate vote was decisive and bipartisan. And it’s great that Republicans didn’t get their way and prevent Native American women and LGBT victims from being covered by the bill. But before Republicans began blocking it last year, the 1994 act was never controversial. Republicans and Democrats supported it alike.
In a statement, the President praised the vote and said the bill would help millions of women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. And he urged the House of Representatives to pass the bill and get it to his desk.
The reaction on Twitter was also mostly jubilant. Here's what some of the female senators had to say about the vote:
Proud the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act. Time for the House to act–domestic & sexual violence are not partisan issues. #VAWA
Breaking: #VAWA passed senate w/23 Republican votes & all women senators voting yes!
#VAWA Roll Call: There were 6 States where BOTH Senators voted against the VAWA: Kentucky, Oklahoma, S Carolina, Texas, Utah & Wyoming.
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