(The Hill) – Democratic leaders say the newly unveiled bipartisan omnibus spending package includes the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a priority for President Joe Biden, who championed the landmark legislation as a senator decades back.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) marked the news in a joint statement early Wednesday detailing the introduction of the larger $1.5 trillion government funding omnibus.
“Finally, this historic legislation will carry major bipartisan legislation that has been in the making for years,” the lawmakers said. “The Violence Against Women Act, expired for too many years, will finally be reauthorized.”
The move comes weeks after a bipartisan group of lawmakers announced that it had reached an agreement on legislation to reauthorize VAWA, which was first made law in 1994.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) led co-authors Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in crafting the legislation, which has also attracted attention in recent months as actress Angelina Jolie has been working with lawmakers to promote the legislative effort.
If passed, it would mark the first time that VAWA has been reauthorized in nearly a decade. VAWA’s last authorization lapsed after lawmakers failed to renew it several years later.
While lawmakers have continued to approve funding for VAWA programs in annual funding legislation in the years since advocates have said its reauthorization is necessary to update the legislation to adequately meet the needs of those it is designed to protect.
“The expiration of VAWA three years ago put many lives in jeopardy. It is such good news that it is finally being reauthorized,” Schumer said in a follow-up statement commending lawmakers behind the measure on Wednesday.
During a press conference announcing the bipartisan bill to reauthorize VAWA last month, Feinstein said the measure would strengthen “existing programs to support survivors and prevent and respond to domestic violence, and that’s dating violence and sexual assault and stalking.”
She added that the legislation would also enhance and expand services “for survivors of domestic violence, including survivors in rural communities, LGBT survivors,” as well as survivors with disabilities, and strengthen the criminal justice response to domestic violence.
However, lawmakers behind the bill confirmed at the time the bill would not address the so-called boyfriend loophole, despite their previous efforts to have it included in the legislation amid opposition from gun rights advocates.