The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), one of the most popular federal policies aimed at ending domestic violence, originally expired on September 30, 2018. It received a temporary extension as part of the short-term spending bill but expired shortly thereafter on February 15, 2019. Now, partisan fighting over recent amendments threaten to bring reauthorization efforts to a standstill.
Originally established in 1994 by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act to aid in preventing violent crime, VAWA responds to the needs of victims, provides tools for holding offenders accountable, and sets up measures for data collection to learn more about these crimes. VAWA has been reauthorized in a bipartisan manner several times since its inception, with the most recent occasion in 2013.
On April 4, the House of Representatives passed The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 1585) by a vote of 263 – 158, with 33 Republicans joining Democrats in the affirmative. This bipartisan Act would extend VAWA for five years, and adds several provisions aimed at expanding the Act’s scope. One of the more controversial provisions includes extending the longstanding prohibition against gun possession for perpetrators of domestic violence, to include dating violence and stalking. Even though the authorization expired, VAWA programs are funded at their highest level ever at $559 million through this fiscal year. The House Appropriations Chair released their proposal for the FY 2020 appropriation which provides over $582 million for VAWA programs. If the House passes the proposal, this provision would still need Senate action.