The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 28, 2013

Congress set to OK bill renewing anti-violence law

— WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans appeared resigned Thursday to accepting an ambitious expansion of the Violence Against Women Act that would bring gays, lesbians, immigrants and Native Americans under its protective umbrella.

A House vote to approve the Senate's version of legislation renewing the Violence Against Women Act would send the legislation to President Barack Obama for his signature and help burnish the GOP's image with women.

Republicans generally agree the law is needed, but many in the GOP oppose a sweeping expansion. Before taking up the broad-ranging bill approved by the Senate two weeks ago, the House will vote on a more limited GOP version. But with Democrats solidly behind the Senate bill and Republicans split over their own alternative, that version was likely to be rejected.

In contrast to the partisan divide in the House, the Senate passed the measure on a 78-22 vote, with all Democrats, all women senators and 23 of 45 Republicans supporting it. The Senate bill goes further than some Republicans like in significantly broadening the scope of the law's coverage.

The GOP decision not to prolong the dispute over how best to extend the 1994 law came after the party's poor showing among women in last fall's election and Democratic success in framing the debate over the anti-violence law as Republican policy hostile to women. President Barack Obama won 55 percent of the women's vote last November. Republican presidential candidates haven't won the women's vote since 1984, when Ronald Reagan held a 12-point lead over Walter Mondale among women.

With House approval of the Senate bill, Obama will sign the reauthorization of the law that laid the foundation for federal efforts to better protect women, and some men, from domestic abuse and better prosecute the abusers.

The law expired in 2011, and has been stuck in political limbo as the House, up to now, has resisted Senate efforts to enlarge the scope of the legislation.

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