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February 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM

U.S. Senate closer to VAWA passage, House should consider same

The U.S. Senate took an important step Monday toward reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The chamber voted by a wide margin, 85-8, to move the bill forward. A final vote is expected later this week.

For a sober look at the domestic violence crisis, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., tweeted this infographic from the National Task Force to End Domestic Violence:

(Source: National Task Force to End Domestic and Sexual Violence)

Here’s our newspaper’s editorial supporting immediate passage of this bill, which provides assistance to victims and prosecutes their abusers. The bipartisan measure sailed through the Senate last spring before it skidded to a halt in the  House during a contentious election season.GOP leaders didn’t allow a vote on the upper chamber’s version of the bill.

Those same leaders are still in power. If they want to stay relevant, they should work with the Senate and pass something.

As we noted in our editorial, they must not squander a second chance to save lives.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is reportedly taking the lead on VAWA for Republicans. She must respond to the needs of her own constituents here in Washington.

The state receives $9.3 million annually in VAWA funding. The money is used to help victims through 20 different organizations associated with tribes, YWCA chapters and government-assistance programs.

Grants run through September 2013, but advocates need to be able to plan for the long term.

Here’s a suggestion for Congress: It’s still early. Greenlight this latest bill before lawmakers become consumed by fierce debates over budget cuts, debt ceiling limits and immigration.

In his opening statement as co-sponsor of the bill, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, pointed out a sobering statistic: since Jan. 1, four individuals in his home state have died from domestic abuse.

Overall, VAWA pays for a plethora of services to help the abused escape from violence and prosecute their perpetrators. This year’s expanded bill reflects the reality of today’s population. Funds would increase the government’s capacity to perform DNA testing on rape kits, identify and treat high-risk cases, push colleges to protect students, expand protection for gay and lesbian victims, and respond to an epidemic of abuse in tribal communities.

Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell both support VAWA. Murray released the following statement after Monday’s vote:

“Today’s vote brings us one step closer to finally renewing our national commitment to ending domestic violence. And while I’m encouraged by the renewed sense of bipartisanship on this issue in the Senate, and look forward to its passage in the near future, the ultimate fate of VAWA still lays squarely on the shoulders of Eric Cantor and John Boehner. They can either give in to the extreme voices of their caucus or they can stand with Democrats, moderate Republicans, and the many millions of Americans who believe there is no reason this critical bill should be put on the back burner or delayed any further. Too many women have been left vulnerable while House Republican leaders have played politics and I encourage the moderate Republican voices in the House to call on their leadership to pass the bipartisan Senate bill as soon as they are able.”

The Act technically expired in September 2011, but lawmakers have allowed funding through September 2013. The latest bill reauthorizes VAWA for five years. Read a news account of the bill’s recent troubles here.

Bottom line: Congress should pass VAWA now.

Comments | Topics: abuse, congress, democrats

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