Today: Violence Against Women Act on Senate Floor

It’s that time again! Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee last month on a party-line vote.

The full Senate vote is happening NOW Senate is discussing reauthorization of the act NOW, and you can watch the Senate floor proceedings on the bill S1925 here.

At a time when the GOP is desperately trying to convince us that they do, in fact, care about women, and that they are not, in fact waging a war on us, VAWA reauthorization is a test. Many, including the VP and women Dems have called the Republicans out on their opposition to this bill, which was first passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized (each time with improvements) twice since then.

Some of the key provisions in the 2012 bill include:

  • Strengthening federal penalties  for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal “rape shield law,” which is intended to prevent offenders from using survivors’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial;
  • Mandating that survivors, no matter their income levels, are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams or for service of a protection order;
  • Funding support for: community violence prevention programs, legal aid for survivors of violence, people who are evicted from their homes due to domestic violence, support programs specifically for immigrant communities, rape crisis centers and hotlines, programs and services for survivors with disabilities.
  • Keeping survivors safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order will be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions within the United States;
  • Providing additional tools for protecting women in Native American tribal jurisdictions, by enabling tribal courts to prosecute non-native folks who live on tribal lands (note: all legal protections afforded defendants in State courts, including due process, would still be mandated in tribal courts).

Republican senators have taken issue with a few new provisions in this current reauthorization, including: protections for queer couples, protections for immigrant women, and expanding the reach of tribal jurisdictions.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) are working on an alternative version of the bill that would appeal to Republicans. Hutchison and Grassley claim that their version addresses some flaws in the Democratic version, such as government spending and immigration. Sen. John Cornyn (R- Texas) is proposing an amendment to the Democrats’ bill as well. Some proponents of the s1925 say that that the Grassley and Cornyn amendments do more harm than good.

Stay tuned here. We’ll post an update if there’s any action!

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