Violence Against Women Act — President Barack Obama signed expanded protections for domestic violence victims into law Thursday, renewing a measure credited with curbing attacks against women a year and a half after it lapsed amid partisan bickering. The revitalized Violence Against Women Act also marked an important win for gay rights advocates and Native Americans, who will see new protections under the law, and for Obama, whose attempts to push for a renewal failed last year after they became entangled in gender politics and the presidential election.
CIA nomination — The Senate approved John Brennan’s nomination to lead the CIA by a vote of 63-34 on Thursday. The vote followed a filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who spent nearly 13 hours on the Senate floor in pursuit of more information about the administration’s domestic drone policy. After receiving a brief letter from Attorney General Eric Holder assuring him that the president does not have the “authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil," Paul declared his effort a success and ultimately voted to end debate (though against the nomination), bringing the total votes in favor of cloture to 81-16. Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Patrick Leahy of Vermont were the only Democrats to vote against Brennan.
Fatal lion attack — Central California officials say the 24-year-old victim of a fatal lion attack died quickly of a broken neck. Fresno County Coroner David Hadden says Dianna Hanson was already dead when the 550-pound lion was tossing her body about its enclosure shortly after the Wednesday afternoon attack at the Cat Haven exotic animal facility in Dunlap, east of Fresno. Hadden said Thursday that bite and claw marks found on Hanson’s body were sustained after she died. Hadden said investigators believe the lion broke Hanson’s neck with a paw swipe. Hanson was a volunteer intern at the facility.
Papal election — The last cardinal who will participate in the conclave to elect the next pope arrived in Rome on Thursday, meaning a date can now be set for the election. Some American and other cardinals had said they wanted to continue the pre-conclave meetings that have been going on all week for as long as it takes so they can discern who among them has the stuff to be pope and discuss the problems of the church. Some Vatican-based cardinals, defensive about criticisms of the Vatican’s internal governance that have been aired recently, have argued there’s no reason to delay.
Federal gun control — The Senate Judiciary Committee took a tentative step Thursday toward addressing gun violence by approving legislation that would make “straw purchases" of guns a federal crime. In its first legislative action since the Newtown shootings in December, the committee voted 11-7 to stiffen federal penalties for individuals buying firearms on behalf of persons prohibited from buying guns themselves. Under existing law, felons and persons adjudicated mentally ill are among those barred from weapons purchases.Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, was the only Republican to support the bill along with the panel’s Democrats.