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House Approves Stronger VAWO Language

On May 1, the House overwhelmingly approved, 416-3, a motion pertaining to the Violence Against Women Office (VAWO) at the Department of Justice (DoJ). Offered by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), the motion would instruct conferees on the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (H.R. 2215) to agree to the Senate-passed language that would make the VAWO a permanent independent office within the agency. The motion also would instruct conferees to agree to the House-passed language that provides a detailed list of the office’s duties.

Stating that the “effectiveness of the office” has been “undercut” because of recent reorganization efforts within the DoJ, Rep. DeGette said, “The Senate language creates an independent office within the Department of Justice, giving it a high profile and guaranteeing the ability of the office to formulate policy and to assist the other governmental agencies in their work on violence against women. This, combined with the House language, listing its duties and authorities, will restore the Violence Against Women Office to its former position as a national leader, and an agent for change on the issue of combating domestic violence around the country.”

While expressing his support for the motion, Judiciary Committee Chair James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) noted that the DoJ preferred the House language and that the establishment of an independent office “might mean $10 to $15 million more in administrative expenses, and $10 to $15 million less in program” funding.

Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD) argued that “a permanent and visible office is essential.”

Expressing concern “about the recent actions on the part of the administration that clearly indicate that the Violence Against Women Office is not a high priority,” Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said that the office “has been key to raising awareness within the Federal Government and the Nation about the impact of sexual assault and domestic violence.”

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