WASHINGTON (Tuesday, March 20, 2012) – Bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reached a critical point Tuesday, as Nevada Republican Dean Heller became the 60th Senator to cosponsor the legislation. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act was introduced in November by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).
“The Violence Against Women Act has always been, and continues to be, a bipartisan priority,” said Leahy. “I am grateful that Senator Heller has joined as a cosponsor of this important bill. Every victim of violence deserves to access the resources available through VAWA. Congress should act, without delay, to approve this commonsense legislation.”
The Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, approved the legislation in February. Last week, Leahy filed a comprehensive Committee Report to accompany the legislation.
The Violence Against Women Act was signed into law in 1994 by President Clinton. It was reauthorized with the unanimous support of the Senate in 2000. A 2005 reauthorization, which also won unanimous Senate support, was signed into law by President Bush.
Fewer than a dozen bills introduced in the United States Senate this Congress have amassed 60 or more cosponsors. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act joins this exclusive list. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated in recent weeks that he intends to schedule the VAWA reauthorization legislation for floor consideration.
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act would further strengthen and improve programs authorized under the landmark law to assist victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The reauthorization bill includes an increased focus on sexual assault, including the addition of new purpose areas to support the efforts of sexual assault coalitions working in the states and provisions to help reduce rape kit backlogs.
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act is supported by over 50 national religious organizations, more than 200 national organizations, and 500 state and local organizations, including victim service providers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and survivors themselves.