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The Senate today passed by a wide margin legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, but the measure is expected to differ in crucial ways from a bill the House will consider next month.
“Today’s strong bipartisan vote will give law enforcement agencies the tools they need to prosecute and convict the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, and will help victims get the protection and support they need,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said after the 68-31 vote on the bill.
All the no votes came from Republicans.
“I urge my colleagues in the House to quickly approve the Senate’s bipartisan bill,” Reid said.
The House is working on its own version of the measure that is not expected to include provisions in the Senate version explicitly extending protections to Native Americans, illegal immigrants, and lesbian and transgender women.
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to consider the bill the week of May 7, with floor action likely to come the week after.
Under the Senate bill, tribes would have the authority to prosecute non-Indian suspects. Under current law, tribes cannot punish non-Indian men who batter their Indian wives.
The bill also would authorize temporary visas for illegal immigrant women who are battered, to encourage them to come forward. The current cap for U visas issued to victims of crimes is 10,000, but that could be increased to 15,000 by using visas unclaimed since 2006.
The bill also would amend nondiscrimination policies for grantees to add the terms “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.”
Republican opponents of the provision argued that there is no need to include the specifications in the bill because the victim services authorized by the bill are for everyone.
Democrats contend that although the bill is meant to exclude no one, in practice members of these groups are sometimes excluded.
A substitute offered by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) that addressed the GOP’s concerns with the bill failed 36-63.
The Violence Against Women Act was first signed into law in 1994 and was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005.