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Home U.S House to vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act

House to vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act

A bipartisan bill to reauthorize the VAWA, as it is known, was introduced in the House earlier this month by Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler of New York and Republican Rep. Brain Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.

“Domestic violence has surged in this nation. And we now have a moment in history,” Jackson Lee told CNN Wednesday ahead of the vote.

“This is a robust bill,” the congresswoman said. “We ensure that there is an armor of the federal government around these families so they can survive. We cannot let them down. I think the moment is here. I think the passion is here.”

The new bill builds upon previous versions of the VAWA by authorizing funding for grants and other forms of support in an effort to prevent and combat sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking and deliver assistance to victims.

According to a fact sheet from the House Judiciary Committee, the bill would improve and expand aid and services for victims and survivors. The sweeping legislation includes provisions to make safe housing more accessible and bolster economic security by ensuring that state unemployment benefits cannot be denied to individuals who leave jobs due to sexual harassment or assault, domestic or dating violence or stalking.

Biden has applauded the effort to reauthorize VAWA, saying in a statement on the recent bill introduction that Congress should “come together in a bipartisan manner to ensure swift passage of VAWA legislation in both the House and the Senate.”

Biden went on to say, “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 Democratic-controlled House voted in 2019 to reauthorize the legislation after it expired, but the reauthorization did not pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Now the House Democratic majority is poised to again pass a reauthorization. This time around Democrats control the Senate, but the effort will still face an uncertain future in the chamber. With a 50-50 partisan split, it is not clear there would be enough Republican support to overcome a filibuster.

Jackson Lee said of her approach to pushing the legislation forward, “I’m going to come at it unrelenting. I’m going to be charging. I want to have a smile on my face but I will never stop, never cease … We will not fail women. I will be unrelenting and I will never give up.”

When asked if he would support the reauthorization bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa “has been our leader on that issue.”

Ernst later told reporters, “We are working on a bill again, taking what we worked on in the last Congress and we will likely reintroduce,” adding that “it will be different from the House bill.”

The Iowa Republican said she hopes it will be possible to “work through those differences in the two bills, find the areas of agreement and move forward with a modernized bill.”

“We’re willing to work with Democrats on this and hopefully by combining forces we can come up with the 60 votes needed,” Ernst said.

Asked about the GOP effort, Jackson Lee said, “We are willing to look at their bill. This is a vigorous bill. We will hold on to as much of our bill as we can to get it passed.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

CNN’s Chandelis Duster and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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