By JEREMY BARR
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives voted Thursday to renew the Violence Against Women Act, passing a Senate-approved version of the bill rather than a Republican-offered alternative.
The bill will now be sent to President Barack Obama, who has said he will sign it into law.
The VAWA provides support and protection for victims of violence. It also funds training designed to better equip law enforcement to respond to instances of sexual and domestic violence.
“The legislation passed today provides the broad and comprehensive protections victims and providers deserve,” Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, said in a statement.
The bills include protections for same-sex couples and Native Americans, despite the reservations of some congressional Republicans. Senate Republicans had also opposed a provision granting visas for illegal immigrants who are abuse victims. It was eventually removed from the bill.
All 138 dissenting votes came from Republicans, though 87 Republicans voted in favor of the bill. The Maryland delegation’s lone Republican, Rep. Andy Harris of Cockeysville, voted against.
“For the sake of millions of victims of domestic violence, I am grateful House Republicans have finally joined Democrats in supporting the bipartisan Senate bill,” said Edwards, the only woman in Maryland’s House delegation.
The bill was a priority for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., long-considered the dean of Senate women, who reintroduced the bill in late January.
“This bill meets a compelling human need. It helps families, it helps police officers and it helps our communities,” Mikulski said in a statement following the House bill’s passage. “We need to empower victims and help prevent domestic violence and violence against women, whether it’s a stranger who perpetrates danger and despicable acts, or in their own home.”
Maryland’s Democratic representatives celebrated passage of the bill, which also consolidates support programs and provides better legal training to defend victims.
“For our mothers, daughters, sisters, and loved ones, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act today was the right thing to do,” Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, said in a statement.
“This comprehensive bill strengthens protections for all women and ensures that victims of violence have the services and support they need,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, said in a statement.
“This is critical legislation that has equipped our law enforcement and government to aid and protect victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking for nearly 20 years,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, in a statement.
The Violence Against Women Act, which became law in 1994 and expired in early January, is said to have decreased domestic violence cases by 50 percent since its inception.
Capital News Service reporter Anamika Roy contributed to this report.