(CBS News) House Republicans introduced a framework today to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) after a week of steady pressure from Senate Democrats who tried to paint Republicans as anti-women.
VAWA was signed into law in 1994 in an effort to curb acts of stalking, rape and domestic violence against women. The law also ensured law enforcement personnel and treatment centers had resources to help victims.
Senate Democrats are considering a bill that would expand protections to Native Americans, gays, lesbians and undocumented immigrants as well.
House Republican women held a news conference today on Capitol Hill to show that Republicans have their own plan for extending the law.
The GOP bill would increase penalties for stalkers who target minors and the elderly by adding five years to a perpetrator's prison sentence. It would also provide funding to clear the backlog of untested rape kits that lawmakers say is as high as 400,000.
Freshman Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) shared her story of getting married at the age of eighteen to a violent alcoholic.
"Back then, you didn't talk about what happened behind closed doors" Adams said. "You just accepted it."
Adams said as both the victim of abuse, and later as a law enforcement officer, she knows the importance of the law's protections for women, and she accused Senate Democrats of politicizing what should be a bipartisan bill.
"I hope that people will quit talking about trying to make it a partisan issue. This is something that affects everyone," Rep. Adams said.
However, Republicans said they don't want to get into the "controversial" areas included in the Senate bill, which include expanded protections for gays, lesbians and Native Americans.
"You know, traditionally this bill has been a bipartisan bill and our goal when we looked at this legislation...was to continue on the priorities that the original legislation did in 1994," said Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD).
When asked who Republicans are working with to make sure their bill is truly bipartisan, Rep. Adams said "we are working with anyone that wants to work with us. We brought forth the bill and I would hope that they would join with us on this bill."
Adams said once they have their framework in legislative language, Republicans would start seeking supporters.
The bill is expected on the House floor the week of May 14.