Senate: Big win for anti-violence bill

Source: Seattle PI

Seattle PI - Joel Connelly

The U.S. Senate, with strong bipartisan support, on Thursday voted to renew and strengthen the 18-year-old Violence Against Women Act, a measure championed by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

The 68-31 vote sends “VAWA” to the House of Representatives, where Republicans are crafting a less ambitious bill.

The Senate-passed bill gives new attention to Indian reservations,  where nearly 40 percent of women experience violence in their lives.  It makes provision for gays and lesbians.  And it would allow 15,000 visas — up from 10,000 — so battered women can stay in the United States during prosecution of serious crimes.

The legislation was supported by 47 of the nation’s 50 attorneys general, including GOP Attorney General Rob McKenna of Washington.  Its main thrust is providing resources to local law enforcement to identify and prosecute domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Cantwell, in a Senate floor speech, stressed the importance of provisions protecting so-called “mail order” brides who find themselves victims of abuse.  She cited two Washington state women, Anastasia King and Susana Blackwell, who were murdered.

“(VAWA) includes enhancements that require marriage broker agencies to provide foreign fiancees with a record of any domestic violence that their potential spouse might have engaged in,” said Cantwell.  “That way we can stop the abuse before it begins.”

“Opponents who say that VAWA would create immigration fraud and gives money to those who don’t need it should consider the story of Anastasia King and Susana Blackwell.”

Democrats have made political hay out of reservations by some Republicans over the legislation.  In the final vote, 15 out of 46 voting GOP senators supported VAWA.  The measure had some enthusiastic Republican supporters such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

“Expanded coverage for domestic violence should never have been controversial,” Murray said.

But in her job as chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, Murray sent out an appeal for money built around renewing VAWA.