House passes Violence Against Women Act

After Republicans blocked it for more than a year, the House passed the expanded reauthorization of the bill

By Jillian Rayfield

Published February 28, 2013 5:48PM (EST)

After an up-or-down vote, the Violence Against Women Act passed out of the House by a margin of 286-138, with 99 Democrats and 87 Republicans voting in favor of it. The bill had already passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote several weeks ago, meaning that it now heads to President Obama's desk to be signed into law.

VAWA was allowed to expire in September, 2011, and then stalled for all of 2012 over expanded protections for LGBT women, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants. House Republicans objected to these additional protections, and repeatedly blocked the bill.

On Thursday, after pressure from Democrats and from within the GOP itself, House Republican leadership allowed the bill to go for an up-or-down vote, after first voting on a Republican version of the bill that did not include the additional protections. That bill was expected to, and did, fail by a vote of 166-257.

In a statement, President Obama said that "Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who wrote the Senate version of the bill, praised its passage, but added: “We made the Violence Against Women Act our top priority this Congress but it should not have taken this long. Still, at a time when we face gridlock and stonewalling on even the most compelling issues, I am glad to see that we could find a way to cut through all of that to help victims of violence.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., had a similar sentiment:

There is absolutely no reason that it should have taken this long for the House leadership to come around on a bill that had overwhelming bipartisan support. But passage today is a validation of what we’ve been saying since this bill expired in 2011 - VAWA has never been, and should never be, a partisan bill. That is why I applaud moderate Republican voices in the House who stood up to their leadership to demand a vote on the Senate bill.

Other members of Congress responded to the news on Twitter:

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Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Domestic Violence Eric Cantor House Republicans John Boehner Violence Against Women Act