The House decided on Wednesday to renew the Law Against Violence Against Women, adding gun restrictions for convicted domestic offenders and other new provisions to a landmark law that has helped fight domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, but which expired in 2019 .
President Biden, who started the bill in 1994 as a Senator, made it one of his top national priorities during his tenure, and Wednesday’s vote was the first major step in bringing it back into force after it was extinguished under President Donald put J. Trump. The renewal of the law has become more urgent amid the alarming increase in domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
The House’s 244 votes to 172 were non-partisan, with 29 Republicans joining the united Democrats to pass the bill. However, significant Conservative opposition to a move largely supported by both parties in the past pointed to a more difficult path in the Senate, where Democrats control only 50 of the 60 votes required to pass it.
Much of the House’s proposed update to the Law Against Violence Against Women, commonly known as VAWA, is undisputed. It would build on a patchwork of programs such as violence prevention and housing assistance for victims of abuse, reaffirm legal protections for victims and their families, and target resources more aggressively towards minority communities.
However, to widen the scope of the law, the Democrats have also included provisions that tighten access to firearms and protection for gays, bisexuals and transgender people for those convicted of violent crimes or under court orders. In an attempt to curb the high rate of domestic violence against Native American women, their bill would also give tribal courts new powers to prosecute non-Indians for sex trafficking, sexual violence and stalking.
“This bill opens the door to the armaments of the federal government and the protection of women who continue to lose their lives and their husbands,” said Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat and one of its lead authors. “Yes, it is a culturally sensitive initiative that protects migrant women, protects Indians and protects poor women.”
What the Democrats called just law amendments to meet the needs of a changing nation, however, has sparked violent backlash among Conservative Republicans, who have been eagerly engaged in ideological battles with Democrats in recent weeks.
In a sometimes fiery debate on the floor of the house on Wednesday, several conservatives accused the majority of applying a law to protect women as a Trojan horse for a “far right political agenda” on gun control and gay and transgender rights while the hostages were clean were held re-authorizing the bill.
“The most egregious provisions of this law advance left-wing gender ideology at the expense of important safeguards for women’s privacy and safety,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko, Republican of Arizona, of her own experience of domestic violence. “If this law is passed, these shelters would have to take men in and place them with women under federal law, putting women at risk at risk.”
Ms. Lesko was apparently referring to provisions that exclude groups who receive funds under the VAWA from discrimination on the basis of gender identity, which was enshrined in law in 2013 and only reaffirmed in the new bill. Their proponents say they didn’t cause widespread security or privacy issues. A new aspect of the bill would require the Bureau of Prisons to consider the safety of transgender prisoners when awarding housing contracts.
Republicans were equally angry about the proposed closing of the so-called friendship gap. While the existing federal law prohibits individuals convicted of domestic violence against a current or former spouse from buying or owning a firearm, the new law would extend the ban to those convicted of abusing, assaulting, or stalking a partner People who are on trial were convicted of order.
Republican Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene unsuccessfully pushed for changes that would allow the government to fund gun training and self-defense classes for women.
“If you want to protect women, make sure women are gun owners and know how to defend themselves,” she said. “That’s the greatest defense for women.”
Republican Representative Elise Stefanik of New York tabled an alternative proposal on Wednesday that would have re-authorized the law for a single year with no changes to allow time for more bipartisan negotiations. It failed 177 to 249.
The disagreements were much of the same that let the law expire two years ago. House Democrats initially passed a version of the bill similar to Wednesday 2019 with modest support from across the gang, but the Republican-controlled Senate declined to approve it in an intense lobbying campaign by the N.R.A. put to the vote. Oppose gun regulations.
This time the Democrats control the upper chamber and have vowed to hold a vote. Still, it will take at least 10 Republicans to join them in sending a bill to Mr Biden’s desk, and they will have to appease the minority party over many of the controversial new measures in the coming weeks.
The Senate Republicans, led by Joni Ernst of Iowa, are preparing their own alternative to force compromise. Ms. Ernst, who has spoken about her own experience of sexual assault, told reporters this week that her colleagues mainly protested the gun regulations contained in the measure passed by the House, but she suggested that her bill also include other undesirable liberals Would eliminate suggestions.
Mr. Biden, who called VAWA his “proudest legislative achievement,” enthusiastically endorsed the House Bill and did not indicate what changes, if any, he would adopt. He won the presidency last fall because of the imperious support of women.
The law was seen as a turning point when it was written in the early 1990s. It addressed several issues that federal legislators had not addressed in a single law, including the confidentiality of the addresses of abused individuals and the recognition of warrants for protection in all jurisdictions. Before the law came into force, a state protection order in one state could not be enforced in another.
Although the law to approve VAWA programs has expired, Congress has since continued to fund many of them.
Mr Biden has already tried to deliver on election promises to step up domestic violence prevention efforts. Its $ 1.9 trillion stimulus bill allocated $ 49 million to groups helping domestic violence survivors and housing assistance for people fleeing abuse, sexual violence, and human trafficking.
Katie Benner and Emily Cochrane Contribution to reporting.