WASHINGTON – With a nod to Women’s History Month, the Democratic-led House on Wednesday passed two measures, one designed to protect women from domestic violence, the other to remove the deadline States to ratify the amendment on equal rights.
The reauthorization of the violence against women law passed 244-172 with 29 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the legislation.
The resolution to repeal the ERA ratification deadline has passed 222-204. Both measures face a more difficult path in an equally divided Senate.
The White House on Wednesday announced its support for the re-authorization of VAWA, which aims to reduce domestic and sexual violence and improve the response to it through various grant programs. Many Democratic women in Congress wore all-white outfits to commemorate the day, a nod to the women’s suffrage movement when marchers wore white dresses to symbolize femininity and purity of their cause.
President Joe Biden introduced the original violence against women law in June 1990 when he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A later version was eventually included in a sweeping crime bill that President Bill Clinton would enact four years later. Congress has reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act three times since.
Biden applauded the House’s action and urged the Senate to follow suit. “It shouldn’t be a Democratic or a Republican problem – it’s about tackling abuse of power and preventing violence,” the president said in a statement Wednesday night.
The original bill created the Office on Violence Against Women within the Justice Department, which has awarded more than $ 9 billion in grants to state and local governments, nonprofits and universities over years. The grants fund crisis intervention programs, transitional housing and legal aid for victims, among other programs. Supporters said the reauthorization would also increase spending on training law enforcement and courts.
“This bill leaves no victims behind,” said Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.
The legislation would also ban those previously convicted of criminal harassment from owning firearms, a provision that drew opposition from the NRA and led most Republicans to vote against the measure in the last Congress.
The other step the House took on Wednesday would remove the deadline for states to ratify the equal rights amendment, a decades-long effort to amend the Constitution to expressly prohibit discrimination based on sex. Congress first asked states to ratify it before 1979, a deadline it then extended until 1982.
President Donald Trump’s Justice Department has said Congress cannot reactivate a proposed constitutional amendment after the ratification deadline expires. Supporters should start over and follow Article V of the Constitution, which requires the support of two-thirds of each house of Congress and the ratification of three-quarters of the states before an amendment is added to the Constitution.
The fight for Equal Rights began almost a century ago. The amendment was eventually passed with the required majority in each chamber when President Richard Nixon was serving his first term.
Shortly after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Amendment last year, the U.S. Archivist said he would take no action to certify passage of the Amendment, citing the opinion of the Ministry of Justice.
Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by three Democratic state attorneys general who sought to force the federal government to recognize Virginia’s vote.
In a separate statement on Wednesday, Biden stressed that he supported the ERA when he was a young senator, adding: “Almost 50 years later, it is high time that we enshrined the principle of gender equality in our Constitution “.
A White House official said Biden remains committed to the ERA, but will not order the legal adviser’s office to rescind his opinion or come to a particular conclusion out of respect for the independence of the ministry of Justice. The official said Biden sees the House vote as the appropriate next step. The official was not allowed to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., Noted that a champion of the amendment, late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said it was time to start over.
“This measure is blatantly unconstitutional,” said McClintock. “If the majority were serious, it would reintroduce the ERA and debate it openly and constitutionally, as Ginsburg suggests. “
The ERA has faced stiff opposition from some conservatives, who say it could be used as a legal tool to fight state efforts to curb abortion.
“If ratified, the ERA would be used to codify the right to abortion, nullifying pro-life protections and forcing taxpayers to fund abortions,” warned Representative Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz.
Supporters have argued that the Constitution does not guarantee that all the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens regardless of gender.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., The sponsor of the resolution to repeal the ratification deadline, said there was no expiration date for equality.
“We demand that we be enshrined in the Constitution,” Speier said.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the Constitution imposes no time limit for the process of ratifying constitutional amendments and that Congress clearly has the power to extend or terminate remove any time limit it has chosen to set previously. .
“We’re about to make history and no deadline should stand in our way,” Nadler said.
Zeke Miller, Associated Press reporter, contributed to this report.