News Local/State

Shimkus Hopes For “Clean” Version Of Violence Against Women Act

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus.

U.S. Rep. John Shkimkus (R-Collinsville) at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High School on Friday. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Illinois Congressman John Shimkus voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) when it passed the U-S House on a vote of 263-158 Thursday. But the Collinsville Republican says he hopes negotiations in the Senate will produce a version he can support when it returns to his chamber.

Commenting during a visit to a middle school in Mahomet Friday, Shimkus avoided giving details about what parts of the bill (HR 1585) he didn’t like. But he said that with Democrats controlling the House, he expected them to add provisions that would fail in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“I don’t begrudge them for pushing it,” said Shimkus, prior to introducing a Google presentation on Internet safety at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High School. “Because in negotiations, you go far left, you go further right, and you eventually get to the middle. I have full expectations we’ll get to the middle, where we reauthorize the act. And I’ll probably be where I was years before, and supportive.”

The Violence Against Women Act was first signed into law with bipartisan support in 1994. The measure funds the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, sets up a special Justice Department office to focus on such crimes, and allows civil redress by victims in cases prosecutors choose not to pursue.

VAWA was reauthorized with bipartisan backing in 2000 and 2005, but was allowed to lapse in 2012, as conservative Republicans opposed provisions protecting same-sex couples and battered undocumented immigrants. It was reauthorized in 2013, but lapsed again in February of this year, as Republicans again opposed new provisions added by Democrats.

Republican opponents to the bill have frequently mentioned their opposition to added protections for transgender people, including transgender people in prison. Another addition, which was opposed by the National Rifle Association, would make it firearm purchases harder for convicted abusers, extending the provisions to cover stalkers and current and former dating partners.

Despite GOP criticism, 33 House Republicans joined almost all House Democrats in voting for the reauthorization bill on Thursday. They included Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville). Davis voted for the Democrat-backed bill, after co-sponsoring a one-year “clean” alternative reauthorization bill with New York Republican Elise Stefanik. The alternative version was defeated in the House by Democrats.