What's in Store for Violence Against Women Act under Attorney General Sessions, Trump Administration

Since its inception in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been reauthorized with great ease every year. It has always received bipartisan support until the addition of protections for LGBTQ individuals, immigrants, and Native Americans during its 2013 reauthorization.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who oversees the Department of Justice, which administers VAWA, opposed the 2013 reauthorization. Previously, he had voted in favor of the bill’s reauthorization; however, he said he could not vote in support the reauthorization with the additional protections.

Advocates are pushing for reauthorization this year, as they have in the past, and are worried that a reauthorization could cause a reduction in protections or simply not happen under this administration. Another concern is that if VAWA is not reauthorized, it loses support for funding increases, especially in an administration that has threatened to not fund legislation that has not been reauthorized recently.

Furthermore, President Trump’s budget would cut funding for discretionary and formula grants authorized by the VAWA in order to reallocate funding within the Department of Justice to focus more on efforts like border protection, immigration detention, and mitigating risks for so-called violence and crime in sanctuary jurisdictions. These cuts represent a total of $2 million relative to VAWA’s fiscal year 2016 budget. VAWA grants fundprograms that serve 7 million individuals and families every year. After the release of the president’s budget last month, the administration rushed to reassure advocates. It advised them to ignore the chart that showed funding for the programs holding steady in 2018, then plummeting from $460 million to eventually $30 million annually within a decade. They said the White House had no plans to gut the VAWA grant programs. However, most of this year’s budget for the programs comes from the federal Crime Victims Fund. In future years, though, the budgets do not assume that money will be transferred from the fund. The administration has yet to determine how it will pay for the programs after this year. 

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Date Posted: 
Fri, 16 Jun 2017

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