Deal on Senate vote on violence against women bill

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WASHINGTON — Senate leaders on Thursday overcame the gender politics that had roiled debate over the government’s main domestic violence program and agreed to a vote on renewing it before heading home for a week’s vacation.

The Violence Against Women Act, approved and renewed unanimously in the past, had for weeks been the subject of haggling between the parties. Democrats accused Republicans of standing in the way engaging in a “war against women.”

That phrase is part of the Democrats’ effort to protect their edge among women voters in this presidential and congressional election year.

Republicans denied they tried to block the renewal. They said they wanted to lower the cap for visas of abused immigrants, remove mentions of protecting gays, lesbians and transgender people, and change provisions protecting Native American women.

GOP lawmakers complained the changes were designed to distract voters from issues Democrats would rather not discuss, such as rising gas prices and the struggling economy.

“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.

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.