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Obama signs VAWA, hails law as 'victory' for violence victims

The president heralded the legislation as a "victory" for the victims of domestic violence.

"One of the great legacies of this law is that it didn’t just change the rules, it changed our culture," Obama said.

The legislation includes new measures intended to help prosecutions on Native American reservations of non-native perpetrators of violence and grants for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered men and women. The bill also includes new funding to reduce the backlog of DNA tests in rape cases and improve police facility storage across the country.

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Obama specifically highlighted the new provisions in his remarks.

"This is a country where everyone should be able to pursue their own measure of happiness and live their lives free from fear, no matter who we are or who we love," Obama said.

The president also took time to recognize the efforts of Vice President Biden, an original author of the bill who had spearheaded administration efforts to urge a renewal.

"On behalf of everybody here, and all of the lives that you have had a positive impact and touched through the Violence Against Women's Act, the survivors who are alive today because of this law, the women who are no longer hiding in fear because of this law, the girls who are growing up aware of their right to be free from abuse because of this law, on behalf of them and all their families, I want to thank Joe Biden for making this one of the causes of his career," Obama said, urging those at the event provide a standing ovation to the vice president.

The original VAWA had expired in September 2011, and debate over the new provisions had stalled legislation in the House. 

Republicans had opposed the Senate bill, which included the revisions, but changed course after it became clear that the upper chamber would not act on a House version of the bill. A revised Senate bill also excluded a provision that would make it easier for non-citizen victims of domestic violence to win visas, in a concession to Republicans.

Top Republicans, including Reps. Darrell Issa (Calif.) and Tom Cole (Okla.), backed the Senate bill over the House version in a rare move, and attended the ceremony Thursday.

On Thursday, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle heralded the signing.

“Today’s signing of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization into law gives women and all victims of domestic violence across America the peace of mind that their government will not abandon them in their time of need," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), an author of the original bill.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said in a post to her Twitter account she was "pleased" the president was signing the bill.