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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson June 9, 2021

Violence Against Women Act reauthorization passes House, heads to Senate

For President Joe Biden, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act isn't just another campaign promise. It's more personal: Biden was the original sponsor of the legislation that was signed into law in 1994, and he has called it his "proudest legislative accomplishment."

The process of reauthorizing the law isn't complete, but progress has been made.

On March 17, the House passed the reauthorization measure by a 244-172 margin. All 215 Democrats who voted supported the bill, along with 29 of the 201 Republicans who voted.

The legislation reauthorizes programs that address domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking, through fiscal year 2026. The measure would establish new programs, including closing the "boyfriend loophole," which expands the categories of people who are prevented from owning or purchasing guns after being convicted of domestic violence. Current law bars only people who have been married to a victim, lived with them, or had a child with them. The legislation that passed the House in March would cover current and former dating partners as well as people convicted of misdemeanor stalking.

Another change in the reauthorization bill would require a more extensive decision process when transgender offenders are assigned to a prison, with consideration given to the inmate's safety.

Biden applauded the House's introduction of the measure on March 8.

"Strengthening and renewing VAWA is long past due," he said in a statement. "Delay is not an option, especially when the pandemic and economic crisis have only further increased the risks of abuse and the barriers to safety for women in the United States."

The bill has not yet received action in the Senate. While reauthorizations in previous years have tended to receive substantial bipartisan support, the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster and proceed to a final vote in the Senate poses a tougher obstacle to passage than House consideration did.

The bill isn't law yet, but House passage represents a significant milestone. This promise moves to In the Works.

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