Share this article

print logo

Domestic violence bill passes in House; Measure falls short, foes say

Unfazed by a White House veto threat, the House Wednesday approved anti-domestic violence legislation that opponents charge doesn't sufficiently protect gay, lesbian, transgender people, Native Americans and immigrants.

On a 222-205 vote, the House passed a GOP-sponsored bill to renew the Violence Against Women Act, an 18-year-old law written by then-Sen. Joe Biden that dedicates federal resources to assist victims of domestic violence.

Wednesday's vote puts the House at odds once again with the Democratic-controlled Senate, which approved its version of the bill last month on a bipartisan 68-31 vote.

The Senate bill renews the act for five years, authorizes $659.3 million in annual spending and contains measures to help victims of sexual assault, improve emergency housing services for victims and consolidate some grant programs to make them more efficient.

It also contains provisions intended to: encourage undocumented immigrants to help law enforcement identify domestic abuse victims; assure protections for gays, lesbians and transgender people, among others; and give tribal courts increased authority to prosecute incidents of domestic violence committed by non-Native Americans in Native American territories.

While both political parties and both chambers of Congress agree on the need for the act -- a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study last year found that 24 people per minute in this country are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by intimate partners -- they vastly disagree over what it should include and whom it should protect.

The House bill provides the same level of funding as the Senate measure but excludes some of the specific domestic-violence protections for gays, immigrants and Native Americans.

Republicans charged Democrats were playing election-year politics with the domestic violence issue, to help bolster their argument that the Republican Party is waging a war on women's rights.

The White House has threatened to veto the House legislation, and it urged Republicans to "join with the Senate in passing a bipartisan VAWA reauthorization bill that protects all victims."