Congress needs to renew the Violence Against Women Act.
The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill last spring reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act by a vote of 68-31. House Republicans balked at that bill because of protections included for undocumented immigrants, the LGBT community and Native American women.
So House members passed a version, largely seen as symbolic, which stripped the bill of the additional measures. A huge sticking point in the Senate's bill was a provision to give tribes some authority when the violence occurs on reservations, where non-Indians commit the majority of incidents and often without consequences.
Because House Speaker John Boehner refused to bring the Senate bill to the floor for a vote, the law died when the last session of Congress ended. It's tragic to lose a law that protected battered women and victims of sexual assault. During the last reauthorization in 2005, only four House members lodged dissenting votes.
The late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone championed the original bill, written by then-Sen. Joe Biden in 1994. It provided funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and victim services such as shelters for battered women. Countless police officers, prosecutors and others received training. The impact was dramatic.
It's imperative that the new Congress immediately right this wrong. Too many lives have been lost to domestic violence, and too many children have been left without moms. Let's not lose the substantial progress our country has made on this issue. Lives are at stake.
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