Feminist leaders, including Patricia Ireland, President of NOW; Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority; and Gail Shaffer, executive director of BPW and leading members of Congress including Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Connie Morella, Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), and Senstors Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joseph Biden (D-DE), and Paul Wellstone (D-MN) held a press conference today urging a clean vote on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as a stand-alone bill. Rumors are rampant that Republican leaders want to attach VAWA as a “sweetener” to a bill that the President said he would veto. Smeal, Ireland, and Shaffer are demanding that Republican leaders not play “politics” with women’s lives. Immediately after the press conference, women leaders met with the chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS). Women leaders still do not have a commitment that VAWA will be scheduled for a vote on its own, and continue to demand that it come up for a vote as a stand-alone bill before it is scheduled to expire on September 30.
VAWA was reauthorized in the House yesterday with a vote of 415 to 3. Only three Republicans, Representatives Helen Chenoweth Hage (R-ID), John Hostettler (R-IN), and Mark Sanford Jr. (R-SC) voted against the bill. VAWA II will ensure that thousands of domestic violence shelters and prevention programs around the country stay open, and provide for a national domestic hotline that has received 142,000 calls per year since VAWA’s original passage in 1994. It will also expand the services provided in the 1994 version, adding a trust fund and immigrant coverage, as well as increasing the amount of funds made available to sexual assault and domestic violence prevention services. Republican leaders have been stalling a vote on VAWA’s reauthorization, despite bipartisan support for the legislation.