Congress Introduces Legislation to Reauthorize the VAWA Act

This week, both the House and Senate introduced legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  For the first time since passage of the legislation in 1994, Congress has failed to reauthorize VAWA.  In the 112th Session of Congress, both the House and Senate passed versions of their bill, but couldn’t reconcile the difference between the two before the session ended.   Unlike the House bill, the Senate passed version of the reauthorization bill added three new measures; protecting LGBT relationships, immigrant women who may not be naturalized citizens or here legally and Native American women.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2013 (S 47) and the bipartisan bill already has 28 cosponsors.  S 47 does not include a contentious provision from the last session that would have raised some revenue by making more U Visas available to abused illegal immigrants.  In the House, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) along with Committee Member Gwen Moore (D-WI) introduced the House companion to the bill, HR 11.  However, it is likely that House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) will introduce a separate version of the reauthorization bill shortly.

In the meantime, Congress is able to appropriate funding for VAWA programs without a reauthorization bill.  Both the House and Senate FY 2013 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill includes funding for VAWA programs.  The Senate Appropriations Committee approved to fund VAWA programs at $412.5 million for FY 2013 (approximately level funding) and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science voted to fund VAWA programs at $415 million for FY 2013.  Since the federal government is operating on a continuing resolution that funds most programs at FY 2012 levels through the end of March, VAWA programs would most likely be funded until then, pending final congressional action.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that passage of the VAWA reauthorization bill is one of his top priorities in the new session.


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