The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 (VAWA) was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning on a party-line vote of 10-8. All Democrats voted to move the bill to the Senate floor for a vote and all Republicans voted no. Although Republican Judiciary Committee Members voted against sending the bill to the full Senate, Republican Senators Scott Brown (MA), Michael Crapo (UT) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) have signed on as cosponsors of the bill.
Despite intense opposition from Ranking Republican Senator Charles Grassley (IA), the bill introduced by Democratic Committee Chair Patrick Leahy’s (VT) was voted out almost intact. Grassley’s substitute bill, which failed to pass, included closing the Office of Violence Against Women in the U.S Department of Justice.
The Iowa Republican, however, was successful in gaining sufficient votes to amend the Leahy bill. One amendment that passed includes mandatory minimum sentences of five years for aggravated sexual assaults. This provision was opposed by sexual assault victim advocates who are concerned that it will deter victims from reporting incidents to the police.
“The fact that not a single Republican member of the Judiciary Committee voted to send VAWA to the floor is an outrage. It is clear that the war on women has no boundaries” said Norma Gattsek, Director of Government Relations for the Feminist Majority after today’s vote.