Deal Reached on Violence Against Women Act

The Senate Friday approved an extension of the Violence Against Women Act that calls for increased funding for the landmark act.

The House is expected to pass the legislation Saturday, according to the office of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

The Violence Against Women Act, which is aimed at curtailing domestic violence through funding for women's shelters and law-enforcement training, expired in September. It originally passed Congress in 1994 and was renewed again in 2000. The latest renewal, approved on a voice vote by the Senate, calls for extending the legislation for five years, at a cost of about $3.9 billion.

The extension includes new provisions focused on health care, early intervention and outreach to American Indian women, among other areas.

"Putting an end to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking will require a strong, steady commitment from the federal government," said Rep. Mark Green, the Wisconsin Republican who sponsored the renewal. "Over the last 10 years we've made historic progress in that effort, but the fight is far from over."

The original legislation was championed by Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., and his wife, Sheila Wellstone, who were killed in a plane crash three years ago. The Wellstones' son, Mark Wellstone, has lobbied Congress this year to renew the act.

"We're really happy that House and Senate members came together on a new Violence Against Women Act that emphasizes prevention," said Julie Koob, director of the Sheila Wellstone Institute, an anti-domestic violence group which helped lobby for the extension.

The $3.9 billion called for in the new bill represents a 20 percent increase over the last five-year extension, although the actual funding levels will be left to yearly appropriations legislation.