The Violence Against Women Act expired at midnight Friday as the government shut down and temporarily cut off funding for programs that help victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse and stalking.
The blow to the landmark 1994 law came after multiple short-term extensions. The act was due to expire on Sept. 30 and on Dec. 7 but received a last-minute reprieve each time. Its programs are funded under the Justice Department, which is affected by the shutdown.
The lapse was a gut-punch to activists after a year in which the #MeToo movement called attention to harassment and assault of women. VAWA was passed in the wake of Anita Hill’s testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas over alleged sexual harassment; it expired less than three months after Christine Blasey Ford testified against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, saying he sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school. Thomas and Kavanaugh denied the allegations and now serve on the high court.
The continuing resolution passed by the House and the spending bill passed by the Senate earlier in the week both extended VAWA until Feb. 8, according to a Republican aide.
Grants already awarded under the law will not be affected by the lapse in its authorization, but the shutdown will delay payment requests from VAWA-funded programs, advocates said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized Republicans in September for only including a short-term VAWA reauthorization in a must-pass spending bill, calling it “nothing short of an abdication of our responsibilities to women in our country.”
“Democrats’ support for keeping government open does not diminish our resolve to ensure that a strong, long-term VAWA reauthorization be passed immediately,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).
A group of 46 Republicans had also called on leaders to bring a bill reauthorizing VAWA to the floor.
Congress received praise this month for approving changes to its system for reporting workplace misconduct on Capitol Hill. Advocates feared that this priority, which arose in the wake of the #MeToo movement, would not be fulfilled by the end of the year.