WASHINGTON — With broad support from the U.S. Senate, legislation to renew and expand the Violence Against Women Act is heading to the House, where a previous renewal bid failed over Republican concerns about new services for gay, immigrant and American Indian victims of domestic violence.
The Senate's 78-22 vote Tuesday reauthorizing the act extends central provisions, such as funding for investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, while also expanding services to groups it did not previously serve.
The act, first passed in 1994, was reauthorized twice before with bipartisan support. The proposed reauthorization, which 23 Republican senators supported Tuesday, would extend services through 2018.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., voted against the legislation, despite it including human trafficking legislation he co-sponsored. Sen. Bill Nelson. D-Fla., voted in favor.
In a statement, Rubio said he supported the human trafficking inclusion but said he questioned some of the new provisions in the legislation, including giving American Indian tribal courts the power to try non-Indians, which the courts can't do now. Opponents have raised concerns that the tribal courts provision might take away Americans' due process rights.
In the House, some Republicans have shown support for the measure. On the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the bill's author, submitted into the record a letter 17 House Republicans sent to their leadership on Monday urging support for the act. The support of those representatives would be added to the support expected from the House's 200 Democrats, 195 of whom are already sponsors of the Senate bill's language.
In a White House news release after the Senate vote, President Barack Obama praised the effort for its bipartisanship: "It's now time for the House to follow suit and send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law."
The Senate bill dropped a provision that was a sticking point with House Republicans in last year's attempt to reauthorize the act. That provision would have expanded visas for battered immigrants and would technically have raised revenue, which the Constitution allows only the House to initiate. The bill includes modest improvements for immigrants but not the visa provision.
Times staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this report.