Though Congress is still at odds over sequestration, both sides of the aisle came together Thursday morning to pass a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
YWCA Lancaster CEO Maureen Powers could barely contain her joy, when she heard the news that the Senate’s version of the Violence Against Women Act passed the House and would now go on to get President Obama’s signature.
The bill passed 286-138. Eighty-seven Republicans joined all 199 House Democrats to get the majority vote.
The vote has been a long time coming. The previous version of the law expired in September 2011.
But the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House hadn’t been able to agree on a new version, until now.
“You wouldn’t think that you would have to fight so hard for something that seems so obviously needed,” Powers said.
VAWA authorizes federal funding for services to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, money to law enforcement agencies to prosecute offenders and programs to raise awareness of violence against women.
The bill was in limbo, with some House Republicans objecting to expansions in the law that would provide increased protections to gay couples, immigrants and Native Americans.
“Native American women experience violence at three and a half times the rate of the average population,” Powers said. “They are, they have violence committed against them more than any other group.”
The act now gives Native American courts greater jurisdiction to try people who aren’t Native American and are accused of violent crimes against women on reservations.
“It’s just a tremendous victory for women today,” Powers said.
Of our central Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, Reps. Lou Barletta, R-11th District, Charlie Dent, R-15th District, Jim Gerlach, R-6th District, Patrick Meehan, R-7th District, Bill Shuster, R-9th District, voted to approve the measure.
Reps. Scott Perry, R-4th District, and Joe Pitts, R-16th District, voted against it.