A less-discussed casualty of the federal government shutdown was the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).Jenny Gathright, “Violence against Women Act Expires Because of Government Shutdown,” NPR, December 24, 2018.
The landmark 1994 act, which must be periodically reauthorized, funds programs to improve criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.For a history of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), including programs and protections added by each reauthorization, see The National Domestic Violence Hotline, “What is VAWA.” For the statute, see 42 U.S.C. §§ 13701 to 14040.
The most recent version of the law, which was signed by President Obama in 2013, had been temporarily extended until late December, when the shutdown occurred without congressional action to reauthorize the act.National Domestic Violence Hotline, “What is VAWA”; and Gathright, “Violence against Women Act Expires,” 2018.
During the shutdown, grantees received word that they could submit requests for payments into the morning of January 18, but they had no idea what would happen after that date, when the administering federal office said it would potentially run out of funds—a dilemma that was temporarily resolved when President Trump agreed on January 25, 2019, to reopen the federal government for three weeks.Marie Solis, “Domestic Violence Shelters in a State of Uncertainty as Shutdown Continues,” Broadly, January 7, 2019; and Nicholas Fandos, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and Pete Baker, “Trump Signs Bill Reopening Government for 3 Weeks in Surprise Retreat from Wall,” The New York Times, January 25, 2019.
The law has lapsed previously, but because it does not require reauthorization so long as Congress continues to appropriate funding, the programs continued to operate during the lapse.Suzy Khimm, “The Violence against Women Act is on Life Support,” Washington Post, January 25, 2013.
This appears to be VAWA’s fate once again, as the mid-February fiscal year 2019 spending package does not include a reauthorization, only funding.Niels Lesniewski and Paul M. Krawzak, “In Bid to Avoid Shutdown, Spending Deal Drops Violence Against Women Act Extension, Other Contentious Provisions,” Roll Call, February 13, 2019.
Instead, House Democrats plan to pursue a version of the broader reauthorization they drafted in 2018.Lesniewski and Krawzak, “Spending Deal Drops Violence Against Women Act Extension,” 2019.
The Democrats' 2018 proposal for reauthorization, sponsored by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, included strengthened provisions to protect domestic violence and stalking victims, increased funding for rape crisis centers, and authorization for law enforcement officers to seize guns from domestic abusers.H.R. 6545 (115th Congress). However, Jackson Lee has been removed from her position as chair of the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee in the wake of allegations that she fired a staffer in retaliation for making a rape complaint.Elise Viebeck, “Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to Step Down as Chair of Subcommittee and Congressional Black Caucus’s Nonprofit Arm, Lawmakers Say,” Washington Post, January 23, 2019. For the time being, however, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, has stated that Jackson Lee will continue to be central to VAWA reauthorization efforts.Katherine Tully-McManus, “Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to Step Down as Chairwoman of Judiciary Subcommittee and CBCF,” Roll Call, January 23, 2019.