House expected to pass Senate version of VAWA bill this week

After a year-long fight over how to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), House Republicans are now prepared to allow a vote this week on the Senate-passed language.

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The House Rules Committee on Tuesday evening approved a rule for the bill that calls on the House to vote on a House GOP version of VAWA reauthorization first. But if that version fails, as is expected, the House would then move to a vote on the Senate-passed version, S. 47.

Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) hinted to Democrats late Tuesday that House Republicans would stand down and allow the Senate bill to pass. In a conversation with ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Sessions said he believes Democrats will have "every opportunity to pass that Senate bill."

House Republicans had proposed their own VAWA reauthorization bill, and seemed prepared to move it this week. But some House aides said they saw the delay in today's Rules Committee meeting as a sign that Republicans were not able to coalesce around the GOP proposal.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) welcomed the news, and said Congress is close to ensuring VAWA protections for all women.

"I applaud those moderate Republicans in the House who are ready to put politics aside and help us get this over the finish line," she said. "I know that the broad coalition of women and advocates who I've worked with over the course of this long effort have their fingers crossed and will be watching closely."

Since last year, the two parties have been split on three main elements of the VAWA reauthorization bill that the Senate passed. One of these elements was language that would expand access to certain visas for non-citizens who are victims of domestic violence.

Last year, Republicans argued that this Senate language would have expanded the deficit, and should not have been considered in the Senate first because it dealt with revenue. But the new Senate version approved this year eliminated that piece of the bill, which many saw as a move that would likely make it much easier for Republicans to accept.

The Senate bill also contains language that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT victims of violence as federal grants are awarded to help these victims. And, it includes a section that gives Indian tribunals the authority to prosecute non-Indians in domestic violence cases.

Earlier in the week, House Republicans proposed their own version that they said would cover all victims of violence generally, without getting into the specifics of various groups. The House GOP bill was also aimed at ensuring that non-Indians are guaranteed their constitutional rights when in tribal courts.

But these remaining sticking points were not seen to be as critical obstacles to GOP support.

In addition, the House bill added language aimed at ensuring VAWA-related funds are not being wasted. But in a letter to House GOP letters earlier this month, 17 Republicans called for the immediate passage of VAWA reauthorization, and downplayed the leaders' fiscal concerns by saying they believe VAWA-related programs "have met that threshold."

The House is expected to pass the Senate bill by Thursday, which would send it to President Obama for his signature into law.

— This story was last updated at 9:34 p.m.