After nearly a yearlong delay, the U.S. House of Representatives gave approval to a renewal of the Violence against Women Act on Thursday.
The Senate successfully passed the measure earlier this year with 78 votes; every woman and Democrat supported the act, and more than half of Republicans voted in favor.
The legislation, which assists and aids victims of sexual and domestic violence, received a vote of 286 to 138 in the House. Eighty-seven Republicans joined 199 Democrats in reauthorizing the act, which has been in effect since 1994, the New York Times reported.
Under the VAWA, federal programs would be expanded to assist local law enforcement and shelters in providing security and aid to victims of domestic and sexual violence.
The more controversial pieces of the act fall under new provisions offering protection to gay, lesbian and transgender victims of abuse. The legislation would also allow American Indian women assaulted by non-Indians on the reservation to bring the incident to the tribal courts. Previously, the criminal justice systems had no jurisdiction in prosecuting attackers who did not live on tribal grounds.
Former Jackson County prosecutor and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., urged the house to pass the act at the Boone County Courthouse last month.
McCaskill said she was encouraged by the bipartisan support and agreement in approving the legislation.
“Republicans in the U.S. House finally relented and let the Senate bill get a vote— and it passed with the bipartisan support we knew it would,” a McCaskill press release stated. “I hope it demonstrates an increased ability by Congress to break partisan logjams and do the work we were sent here to do.”
Before the House approved and advanced the legislation to the president’s desk, McCaskill spent the week speaking in St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City calling for the final approval of the legislation, which she referred to as "critical."
McCaskill said her time as a prosecutor made her susceptible to the effects of domestic and sexual abuse.
“As a former prosecutor who’s seen firsthand the effects of domestic violence, I can tell you that the Violence Against Women Act saves lives,” the release stated. “For nearly a year I’ve heard from Missourians in big cities and small towns, all wondering how this landmark bill that had previously been so bipartisan, so noncontroversial and had been proven so effective, could be mired in such partisan political gridlock.”
Barbara Hodges, the director of the True North Shelter in Columbia, said she is grateful of the bill’s re-approval.
“We’re just glad for any funding from the state and federal level," she said.
Hodges said the funding would continue to help provide services for those victims of domestic and sexual violence and abuse.
Before the legislation was re-approved, an alternative bill was presented by House Republicans, which was revealed last Friday.
This alternative, however, did not include gay and lesbian populations under the list of groups eligible in receiving services, and it also eliminated measures for American Indian women on reservations.
The failure to address these concerns was met with much resistance and criticism from Democrats in the House. The bill failed on a vote of 257 to 166, according to The New York Times.
Regardless, the VAWA received its re-approval after almost a yearlong stalemate. The legislation, which was reauthorized in previous years with little to no disagreement, is now making its way to the president’s desk where it will await his signature.