WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Democrats have renewed their push to revive the key federal program that protects women against domestic violence. They sought to diminish Republican objections that blocked passage of the legislation last year by removing a provision that would increase visas for immigrant victims of domestic abuse.
The Violence Against Women Act became law in 1994 and was extended in 2000 and 2005. But it expired in 2011 and, although both the House and Senate passed VAWA bills last year, the two chambers were unable to settle their differences.
The main points of contention were provisions in the Senate-passed bill that increased protections for American Indians, gays and immigrants.
Bipartisan legislation that was introduced in the Senate Tuesday, and an identical bill House Democrats are unveiling Wednesday, retain those protections but remove one provision that would increase what are called U visas available to immigrant victims.
House Republicans last year said that was unconstitutional because the Senate imposed a fee to pay for the visa expansion and all revenue-raising measures must be initiated by the House.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he still supported the visa increase but "we introduce the bill today without that provision in order to remove any excuse for House inaction."
Obstacles still remain to an agreement. In particular, Republicans have objected to a measure in the Senate-passed bill that would allow Native American courts to prosecute non-Indians accused of committing abuses on Indian land. The House bill that passed last May also omitted Senate references to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.