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Angelina Jolie, senators announce path forward on Violence Against Women Act

(WASHINGTON) — An emotional Angelina Jolie appeared on Capitol Hill Wednesday to join senators in announcing they’ve found a path forward on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Jolie appeared to urge senators to move the legislation swiftly to the floor, telling them that it would be “one of the most important votes you’ll cast in the Senate.”

Some of the bill’s provisions include strengthening rape prevention and education efforts, providing support for legal services funding and trauma-informed law enforcement responses and expanding access to emergency housing support for survivors.

The actress, toward the end of her remarks, was visibly emotional, crying as she discussed the many individuals “for whom this legislation comes too late.”

The House passed its version of the bill last year.

The Violence Against Women Act, originally signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, authorizes federal funding to aid victims of sexual assault and violence and strengthens the investigation and prosecution of those who commit violence against women. The original bill also created an Office on Violence Against Woman as part of the U.S. Justice Department.

But the law lapsed in 2018 due to Republican opposition to some added provisions, including protections extended to transgender individuals and efforts to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which refers to federal law that bars domestic violence abusers from obtaining guns but only applies to current or former marital spouses, current or former cohabitants or someone who shares a child with the victim.

To get to an agreement in the Senate, lawmakers said they had to abandon their efforts to close that loophole. The National Rifle Association opposed the change, and at least 10 Republicans are needed to overcome the Senate filibuster. To get those backers, language closing the loophole had to be dropped.

“Our bill is a compromise. It doesn’t include everything Senator Feinstein and I wanted or everything Senator Ernst and Murkowski wanted. And there are provisions that all four of us very much wanted to include such as an end to the loophole that allows abusers who harm dating partners to continue to have access to guns,” Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin said. “But we agreed that we had to introduce a bill that would both deliver the critical assistance survivors across America need and achieve the necessary bipartisan support and pass the Senate.”

As a senator, President Joe Biden played a key role in the legislation’s original passage. In a statement last year, he urged lawmakers to set partisan interests aside and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, calling it “one of the legislative accomplishments of which I’m most proud.”

Biden put out a statement Wednesday applauding the lawmakers for coming to an agreement and saying he wants the Senate to “move quickly to get this passed” and for Congress to deliver “this critical bipartisan bill” to his desk “without delay.”

“Combatting domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking should not be a Democratic issue or Republican issue. It’s a matter of justice and compassion,” the statement said.

But while Wednesday’s announced agreement marks a step forward on passing the legislation, it’s still not clear if the deal has the 60 votes needed.

Durbin, who serves as the Democratic whip, would not yet commit to a timeline for bringing the agreement to the floor. He said lawmakers are “perilously close” to the needed threshold, and an aide told ABC News that lawmakers are nearly there on securing the necessary votes.

Sen. Ben Ray Lujan’s prolonged absence from the chamber following a stroke could prove an additional hurdle, and Durbin told ABC News on Wednesday that his absence is part of the consideration on timing.

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