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Senate Democrats Reintroduce Violence Against Women Act But Change Immigrant Visa Provision

Senate Democrats Reintroduce Violence Against Women Act But Change Immigrant Visa Provision

January 23, 2013 — Senate Democrats this week announced their first 10 bills for the new congressional session, including legislation (S 47) to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, Roll Call reports. The announcement signals which bills are the lawmakers' top priorities for passage, according to Roll Call. In addition to the VAWA reauthorization, Senate Democrats announced measures on preventing violence in schools, creating jobs and addressing other issues (Sanchez, Roll Call, 1/22).

Last year, a standoff over the House and Senate versions of the VAWA reauthorization resulted in the legislation expiring for the first time. The Senate had passed a bill (S 1925) that included additional protections for Native American, immigrant, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. However, the House rejected the bill and passed its own version (HR 4970), which omitted the added protections (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/17).

Changes to Visa Provision

House members also objected to the Senate version because of a provision that would have increased the number of visas available to immigrants who experience domestic violence. The Senate bill would have imposed a $30 fee to pay for the visas, which drew objections from House Republicans because all revenue-creating measures must originate in that chamber.

This year, Democratic legislation in both the House and Senate will omit the visa expansion and the accompanying fee.

Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who introduced the new Senate bill on Tuesday, said the provision was dropped "[i]n the interest of making quick and decisive progress" and "to remove any excuse for House inaction."

Meanwhile, House Democrats are expected to announce their bill at a news conference on Wednesday.

Tribal Courts Provision

House lawmakers last year also opposed a provision in the Senate bill that would have given tribal courts authority over cases in which a U.S. citizen is accused of violence against a Native American.

Although some Republicans suggested a compromise late last year, House GOP leaders did not support the proposal. It is unclear whether lawmakers will be able to find a resolution to the issue this year, CQ Roll Call reports (Gramlich, CQ Roll Call, 1/22).