The House of Representatives passed an act reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act by an almost unanimous vote of 415Y to 3N. The House vote came after a concerted effort by women members of Congress and women’s rights groups, including the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Organization for Women, and Feminist Majority, to schedule House and Senate votes on the legislation. While support for the act was bi-partisan, Republican leaders have made the Act a political football and have refused until today to schedule the vote in the House and still have not agreed to schedule it in the Senate. Women’s rights groups are continuing to press for a Senate vote.
In a news conference yesterday, President Clinton urged passage of the bill. If passed, VAWA will provide over $3 billion over five years in funds to battle domestic violence and sexual assault. VAWA funds battered women’s shelters, special police sex crimes units and a national domestic violence hotline. The new bill would provide expanded services and resources. In the House debate, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) called VAWA “the most important legislation before Congress.” The right-wing Eagle Forum and Concerned Women of America have been lobbying against the Act, claiming that it is “anti-family.”