WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday passed and sent to President Barack Obama a far-reaching extension of the Violence Against Women Act. The vote came after House Republican leaders, cognizant of divisions in their own ranks and the need to improve their faltering image among women voters, accepted a bill that cleared the Senate two weeks ago on a strong bipartisan vote.
Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., all voted no with Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan. voting yes.
The bill renews a 1994 law that has set the standard for how to protect women, and some men, from domestic abuse and prosecute abusers. Thursday's 286-138 vote came after House lawmakers rejected a more limited approach offered by Republicans.
It was the third time this year that House Speaker John Boehner has allowed Democrats and moderates in his own party prevail over the GOP's much larger conservative wing. As with a Jan. 1 vote to avoid the fiscal cliff and legislation to extend Superstorm Sandy aid, a majority of House Republicans voted against the final anti-violence bill.
Obama, in a statement, said "renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear" and said he would sign the bill "as soon as it hits my desk."
The law has been renewed twice before without controversy, but it lapsed in 2011 as it was caught up in the partisan battles that now divide Congress. Last year, the House refused to go along with a Senate-passed bill that would have made clear that lesbians, gays, immigrants and Native American women should have equal access to Violence Against Women Act programs.
It appeared the scenario would be repeated this year when the House introduced a bill that didn't mention the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and watered down a Senate provision allowing tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians who attack their Indian partners on tribal lands.