WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Al Franken broke down on the Senate floor Thursday in an emotional speech about the Violence Against Women Act and the influence of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila.
Franken’s speech was a tribute the couple and the work Sheila Wellstone did with victims of domestic violence. The Violence Against Women Act, specifically the provisions in it helping keep women who are fleeing domestic violence from becoming homeless, was part of her ultimate vision, he said.
The Wellstones died in a plane crash in 2002. Franken started crying discussing Sheila Wellstone’s legacy.
“She and Paul and their daughter Marcia were tragically taken from us too soon. But Sheila’s example is with us. Her legacy is with us and her words are with us,” Franken said.
The Senate approved the Violence Against Women Act later Thursday afternoon. The bill provides funding for grants to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute crimes involving domestic abuse and sexual violence.
The bill passed 68-31 one day after Republicans had said they would not block the bill, even though it contained provisions some considered to be unconstitutional. Likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had endorsed the legislation.
Franken had two provisions included in the final legislation, one forbidding the eviction of a woman from federally-supported housing because she was a victim of domestic or sexual violence, and another ensuring victims of sexual assault don’t have to pay for their rape kits.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, writing an op-ed in about bill in the Huffington Post, also invoked the Wellstones. She introduced an amendment to the bill that would have relieved the nation’s backlog of untested rape kits. The amendment did not meet the 60-vote threshold for passage.
A version of a second Klobuchar provision, one strengthening federal anti-stalking laws, was included in the final version of the bill.
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry