January 31, 2013 — "The first legislation I plan to move in the new Congress is the Violence Against Women Act," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) vowed this month. The landmark VAWA, which has helped reduce sexual and domestic violence by more than half, expired last year.
"Last year, the Senate passed my bipartisan bill, but House leaders refused to agree to protect some of the most vulnerable victims of domestic violence and rape," Leahy told Georgetown University law students, according to MSNBC. The House passed a version of VAWA last year that stripped out some of the Senate bill's protections for LGBT and Native American victims.
Leahy and co-sponsor Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) made one significant change to VAWA this year: they added the SAFER Act , which will help eliminate the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved rape cases.
The SAFER Act , sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) passed the Senate just after Christmas. Days later, the House passed an amended version of SAFER (sponsored by Reps. Ted Poe [R-TX] and Carolyn Maloney [D-NY]). But the vote came too late to reconcile its bill with the Senate before the 112th Congress adjourned.
Because of Congressional rules, the bill had to be reintroduced, and the process started all over, when the new Congress was sworn in this month. The sponsors last week re-introduced SAFER, which has the support of Chairman Leahy and Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
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