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For the first time since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act is no more. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

House GOP Fails to Act on Violence Against Women

Failure strips proven protection from vulnerable populations

Among the various end-of-the-year housekeeping occuring on Capitol Hill, the House GOP failed to pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the Democratic point person on VAWA, condemned the House leadership in a statement calling the failure to take up and pass the Senate's "bipartisan and inclusive" VAWA bill "inexcusable."

Originally passed in 1994, the Act provided funding for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted.

The Act had already expired in September 2011 leaving its programs to run on fumes while lawmakers deadlocked over recent provisions.

Back in April, the VAWA reauthorization passed the Senate easily with a 68 to 31 vote. The bill, which recently incorporated important new protections, including bolstering campus safety and extending protections to our tribal, immigrant and LGBT communities, was co-written by a bipartisan team—Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Id.)—and, according to the Maddow Blog, "seemed on track to be reauthorized without much of a fuss, just as it was in 2000 and 2005."

According to the New York Times, the GOP-controlled House objected to the new provisions and responded by passing its own version of the measure (gutted of any protections for gay men, lesbians, American Indians living in reservations, and illegal immigrants who were victims of domestic violence) subsequently gridlocking negotiations.

In an earlier petition urging its passage, Murray wrote:

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives passed an ideological bill that not only excludes these at-risk populations but strips existing protections for vulnerable women.

We should all agree that where a person lives, their immigration status, or who they love should not determine whether or not perpetrators of domestic violence are brought to justice.

A recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that there has been a 64 percent decline in intimate partner violence from 1993 to 2010. In response, Kim Gandy, the President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, wrote, "since it became law in 1994, VAWA has surely played a critical role in this remarkable decline."

Proponents of the law hope to revive the law in the new Congress, however The Maddow Blog writes, "in the meantime, there will be far fewer resources available for state and local governments to combat domestic violence."

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