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Democrats dare GOP to oppose renewing domestic violence program; election-year gender politics
Washington (AP) ' The Senate is heading toward a vote on renewing the government's main domestic violence program, but gender politics in this election year are adding complications.
The Violence Against Women Act, which passed unanimously in the past, is now the subject of heated debate in the Senate over Democratic proposals to better protect Native American women and provide more visas to abused immigrants.
Democrats have enough support, including eight Republicans, to block a filibuster, and say other Republicans who vote against the measure would be waging a "war against women." That's a phrase is part of the campaign mantra Democrats are using to protect their lead among female voters.
Republicans complained the changes to the law were designed to set them up and distract from issues such as the economy that Democrats would rather not discuss.
"We face an abundance of hard choices," said Arizona Sen. John McCain, the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee and a leading supporter of Republican hopeful Mitt Romney this year. "Divisive slogans and declaring of phony wars are intended to avoid those hard choices and to escape paying a political price for doing so."
The law, enacted in 1994, has a history of bipartisan backing and generally has escaped controversy until now.
President Barack Obama and his Democrats, eager to protect their wide lead among female voters, have tried to portray Republican stands on social policies from Medicaid to contraception as evidence of a GOP "war against women." Women have accounted for the majority of voters in presidential election years and they provided Obama's margin of victory in 2008.
Romney and other Republicans are betting that men as well as women will have the economy on their mind in November and say the Democratic changes pushed for the law's renewal are unnecessary.
Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, proposed an alternative that would alter several Democratic provisions by:
'capping visas available to legal and illegal immigrants who suffer abuse at 10,000 a year, compared with 15,000 in the Democratic bill.
'striking specific references to protecting gays, lesbians and transgender people.
'permitting tribal authorities to go to federal court for protective orders on behalf of abused American Indian women. The Democratic bill would expand the power of tribal officials to handle cases of abuse of Indian women by non-Indians.
House Republicans are drafting a bill would be close to the Grassley-Hutchison approach.