WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats, bolstered by Republican support, began a new attempt Monday to broaden a law protecting women from domestic abuse, expanding its provisions to cover gays, lesbians and Native Americans.
The legislation to renew the Violence Against Women Act appeared on a smooth path toward passage in the Senate, possibly by the end of the week. Yesterday's vote to make the bill the next order of business was 85-8.
Senate passage would send the bill to the House, where advocates hope Republicans, smarting from November losses among women voters, won't repeat their resistance last year to the Senate approach.
"Allowing partisan delays to put women's lives at risk is simply shameful," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. He said he hoped convincing support for the legislation in the Senate would "send a strong message to House Republican leaders that further partisan delay is unacceptable."
House Republicans, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, say reauthorizing the 1994 act, which expired in 2011, is a priority. But resolving partisan differences remains an obstacle. Last year both bodies passed bills but the House would not go along with Senate provisions singling out gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders for protection and giving tribal authorities power to prosecute non-Indians who attack Indian partners on tribal lands.
Kim Gandy, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, said that after last year's election both parties are eager to demonstrate they are behind a pro-woman agenda. She said her group, which supports the Senate bill, had received "very positive responses" from the offices of both Cantor and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top-ranked Republican woman.
The Senate bill, while making minor concessions to meet GOP concerns, is essentially the same as the one that passed that chamber last April on a 68-31 vote, with 15 Republicans voting yes. It also ensures that college students and immigrants have access to anti-abuse programs.