Mitch McConnell has blocked help for abuse victims for more than 6 months

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Mitch McConnell 'needs to stop the stonewalling and give this bill a vote,' Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said.

For more than six months, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to allow a vote on the House-passed Violence Against Women Act, and supporters of the bill are speaking out.

McConnell's (R-KY) insistence on preventing a vote on the bill "sends the wrong message to survivors across the country who depend on VAWA services to seek help, safety and justice," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said in a statement. "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to stop the stonewalling and give this bill a vote — Congressional Republicans' political games will have serious consequences for domestic and sexual violence survivors and their children."

The bill garnered bipartisan support when it passed the House in early April, with 33 Republicans joining 230 Democrats in voting for it. The legislation governs programs aimed to assist survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault. In this latest reauthorization, the House added a provision making it more difficult for known domestic abusers to obtain guns.

VAWA "is a critical piece of legislation that helps keep women safe, supports our law enforcement, and provides survivors with the resources they need," Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), a gun safety champion who lost her only son to gun violence, said in a statement. "The Senate must act on bipartisan legislation that will protect our families."

The NRA is a vocal opponent of the House bill, calling it an effort to push a "gun-control agenda," and in the past, McConnell expressed support for VAWA only if it were stripped of provisions like the gun control measure.

Rather than pass a comprehensive bill addressing violence against women that includes gun control provisions opposed by the NRA, the GOP is offering piecemeal, standalone bills. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) tried to blame House Democrats for a rape test kit program expiring on Sept. 30. Cornyn and the Republican-led Senate passed a standalone bill on the issue of rape test kits in May, more than a month after the House passed VAWA.

"We passed this bill in the Senate and then it came to a screeching halt in the House of Representatives," Cornyn said on Oct. 3. Cornyn failed to mention that the program he was touting was included in the House-passed VAWA.

In a statement responding to Cornyn's comments, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), said, "The House has done its job and passed the Violence Against Women Act, which contains a provision that would address the backlog of rape kits in our country. Now, it is time for the Senate to act. For nearly twenty years, Congress worked on a bipartisan basis to expand and improve the Violence Against Women Act, and I urge the Senate to take up this essential legislation to protect all victims of domestic violence."

In the meantime, McConnell continues to block any movement on the bill from the House.

"VAWA passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis with a significant number of Republican votes," Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. "Unfortunately, VAWA has met the same grim fate in Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard as most bills passed by the House that the American people strongly support."

McConnell has blocked a number of popular measures passed by the House, including legislation on background checks, pay equity, prescription drugs, immigration, and voting rights, in addition to VAWA. In the past, McConnell has bragged about being the "Grim Reaper," touting his repeated efforts to kill legislation passed by the House.

"It is time for the Senate to act. For nearly twenty years, Congress worked on a bipartisan basis to expand and improve the Violence Against Women Act, and I urge the Senate to take up this essential legislation to protect all victims of domestic violence," Chu said in a statement.

Several members of Congress used social media to call on McConnell to stop blocking VAWA, noting that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

"October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to stand in solidarity with and support the victims and survivors of domestic violence," Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) wrote on Tuesday. "We must continue our efforts to end domestic violence. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must call a vote on #VAWA!"

"According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) wrote on Saturday. "It's time for the Senate to prioritize reauthorizing #VAWA now."

"Six months have passed since the House approved legislation to reauthorize and expand the Violence Against Women Act," Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) wrote on Monday. "I urge the Senate to pass this legislation that supports survivors and prevents domestic violence."

Thus far, McConnell has resisted the pressure and continues to block the bipartisan House bill from coming up for a vote in the Senate.

Published with permission of The American Independent.