Heller adds key support for domestic violence bill

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., signed on today as a cosponsor of a bill reauthorizing programs that combat domestic abuse. His signature was seen as significant because it gives the bill a filibuster-proof 60 votes for passage.

“Nevada’s struggling economy has limited state resources to help those who are affected by domestic violence," Heller said in a statement. "This measure will provide greater certainty for organizations that work hard every day to prevent and address domestic violence."

Heller's support for the Violence Against Women Act also could help inoculate him from criticism by his election opponent Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, who has been trying to paint him as anti-woman.

Berkley this month attempted to link Heller to talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who was under fire for calling a Georgetown University student a "slut." She also has criticized his recent vote against government-mandated insurance coverage for contraceptives, saying it effectively would deprive women of health care opportunities.

In response, Heller said his vote on insurance coverage for contraceptives reflected his opposition to federal health care mandate and the Obama administration's health reform. He also issued a statement critical of Limbaugh after Berkley initially called him out on it.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the main sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act, noted Heller's co-sponsorship in a statement.

“The Violence Against Women Act has always been, and continues to be, a bipartisan priority,” Leahy said, noting that fewer than a dozen Senate bills have amassed 60 or more cosponsors. “I am grateful that Senator Heller has joined as a cosponsor of this important bill."

Heller became the seventh Republican to sign onto the bill, which passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in February on a party-line vote. It has since become entwined in Senate politics.

According to a report in Politico last week, some GOP senators have raised objections to broadening provisions on people in same-sex relationships. They also have argued against providing thousands of additional visas under a program that gives illegal immigrants who are crime victims a chance at legal status. They argue it could lead to immigration fraud.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is a co-sponsor, told reporters today he planned to schedule Senate debate and votes on the Violence Against Women Act "just as quickly as I can."