Senate rejects GOP bid to limit Violence Against Women Act

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Washington — The Senate on Thursday rejected a Republican proposal to prevent federal aid from being spent on immigrant, gay and Native American victims of domestic violence, the key objections that have so far help up Congressional reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

The Senate on Monday will again take up reauthorization of the measure, which expired at the end of 2011. The act, which Congress has reauthorized twice with bipartisan support since it was created in 1994, funds investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women.

This year’s attempt at reauthorization follows a partisan battle over the legislation last year, in which a Senate reauthorization bill failed in the Republican-led House. This year’s reauthorization bill would extend the act’s central provisions through 2018 while expanding services to groups that are not provided for in the existing legislation, including immigrants, same-sex couples and Native Americans.


A proposal Thursday from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) would have removed those provisions, while adding mandatory minimum sentences and other harsher prosecutorial measures for some domestic crimes.

But that proposal, which failed in a 65-34 vote, is a “poor substitute” for the expanded reauthorization Democrats – and a number of Republicans – support, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the bill’s chief sponsor, said in a news release Thursday.

“The proposed substitute bill would remove fundamental points of fairness that are at the core of this legislation. We need to cover everyone who experiences domestic and sexual violence in this country,” Leahy said.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Grassley questioned whether Leahy’s bill could viably do that. Grassley raised concerns about the constitutionality of one provision of Leahy’s bill, which would change tribal law to allow tribal courts to prosecute nontribal suspects.

“What is very cruel is to provide tribal women the illusion of a solution that courts may well strike down on constitutional grounds in the future,” Grassley said.