The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act on Tuesday, despite the efforts of a group of Republican men who tried to block it.
Florida senator Marco Rubio led a group of 22 male Republicans who voted against the bill, which established a system for helping women in danger from domestic violence. No women or Democrats opposed the bill and it passed 78-22. That's right, the guy that Time magazine hailed this week as the "GOP Savior" voted against helping protect women from violence.
In fact, Rubio was also one of eight Republican senators who last week voted against moving to debate on the revived legislation.
One of the most contentious issues of the bill is that the updated version grants additional protections to immigrants which would encourage undocumented women to report assaults done to them.
Another issue some of the gang of 22 are hiding behind is that they object to the updated VAWA extending protections to LGBT and Native Americans.
The spending and grant provisions of the bill may have had something to do with the no votes, as well.
The Senate bill also prohibits discrimination against LGBT victims in grant programs to help victims, and would let illegal immigrants stay in the country to receive help if they are victims of domestic violence or rape.
VAWA provides grants to victims of domestic violence in order to encourage victims to leave their abusive situations. Some feel they can’t get away from their abusers because they might not have another form of family income, so the grants can provide housing assistance and cellphones for victims. Under this reauthorization bill, these programs would continue for another five years.
It seems that those who voted "no" feel some women are more deserving of help than others.
The senators who voted against the bill were: John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AK), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jim Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), John Thune (R-SD) and Tim Scot (R-SC).
In a statement released on Tuesday, Rubio said that though he continues to support programs "to combat domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking", he did not support all elements of the expanded bill. He objected to programs that would divert funding from domestic violence to sexual assault programs.
Women's groups were scathing about Rubio's attempts to derail the bill and said that it would cause problems for the GOP among women voters, a key demographic that deserted them in the last election.
The bill authorizes $659 million over five years for VAWA programs. It also expands VAWA to include new protections for LGBT and Native American victims of domestic violence, to give more attention to sexual assault prevention and to help reduce a backlog in processing rape kits. Created in 1994, VAWA has helped to strengthen programs and services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
Ahead of the vote, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill's sponsor, questioned why anybody would vote against his legislation since it just expands protections to vulnerable groups.
"It is difficult to understand why people would come in here and try to limit which victims could be helped by this legislation," Leahy said. "If you're the victim, you don't want to think that a lot of us who have never faced this kind of problem, sat here in this body and said, 'Well, we have to differentiate which victims America will protect.'"
Senators voted on a few amendments to the bill. They voted 93 to 5 to include a provision targeting human trafficking, and 100 to 0 on a provision to ensure child victims of sex trafficking are eligible for grant assistance. They rejected amendments by Coburn to consolidate certain Department of Justice programs and to allow grants for sexually transmitted disease tests on sexual assault perpetrators.
VAWA typically gets reauthorized with little to-do. But Congress failed to do so last year amid House Republican objections to provisions in the Senate bill that expanded protections for LGBT, Native American and undocumented immigrant victims of violence. This year's Senate VAWA bill includes the LGBT and Native American provisions, but leaves out the piece for undocumented immigrants. Leahy has pledged to attach that piece to immigration reform legislation.
In a statement Tuesday, Joe Biden -- the chief author of the original law -- called on the House to pass the legislation expeditiously.
“Delay isn’t an option when three women are still killed by their husbands or boyfriends every day,” Biden said. “Delay isn’t an option when countless women still live in fear of abuse, and when one in five have been victims of rape.”