Just one day after the murder of eight people that included seven women, six of them Asian, the House of Representatives voted to renew the Violence Against Women Act. When it was first passed in 1994, it was so uncontroversial that it passed the House of Representative by a voice vote and in the Senate by a margin of 95-4. But that was at a time when the Republican party still had some level of decency. This time, what was shocking was that while all Democrats in the House voted in favor of it, only 29 Republicans did so, giving a total in favor of 244 while 172 Republicans voted against it. Senate Republican are expected to try and block it altogether. McConnell refused to bring up the reauthorization in 2019 which is why it has lapsed.
VAWA enshrines legal protections for women who have experienced domestic and sexual violence. It was initially passed in 1994, championed by then-Senator Joe Biden, and was updated and reauthorized in 2000, 2005 and 2013. The bill expired at the end of 2018 due to a government shutdown and was briefly renewed by a resolution reopening the government, but expired again in February 2019. Mr. Biden made reauthorizing VAWA a key campaign promise before he was elected.
It would also close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” to prevent dating partners and stalkers convicted of domestic violence or abuse from purchasing and owning firearms. Previous versions of the bill already prevented spouses convicted of domestic violence or abuse from obtaining firearms.
The House passed a version of VAWA including this amendment in 2019, but it died in the Senate, which was then controlled by Republicans. Some GOP lawmakers objected to this portion of the bill, arguing it was too broad. Republicans also offered objections to provisions that would have expanded protections for LGBTQ and undocumented immigrant victims.
In 2019, the bill received support from 33 House Republicans, and the current version is cosponsored by Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick.
“Congress has historically reauthorized VAWA with broad, bipartisan agreement, and I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to ensure that VAWA continues to protect victims and survivors across the nation,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement when the bill was introduced earlier this month.
I am not hopeful that this will pass. Most Republican elected representatives seem to be dead set against any limits on the ability of people to commit acts of violence. If the massacre of elementary school children at Sandy Hook was not enough to get them to limit access to assault weapons, the killings in Atlanta last week is unlikely to shift them on VAWA, and neither is the mass killing in Boulder going to shift them on adopting reasonable gun control measures.
I honestly don’t know what it will take for them to realize that providing such easy access to highly lethal weapons is a bad thing.