Senate OKs renewing Violence Against Women Act

By LAURIE KELLMAN | April 26, 2012 | 4:59 PM EDT

FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2010 file photo, then-Rep.-elect Kristi Noem, R-S.D. speaks during a Republican news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Republicans determined to show women voters that they have their interests at heart on Wednesday announced plans to renew the Violence Against Women Act, the federal government's main domestic violence program. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has passed a bill to renew the government's main domestic violence program.

The 68-31 vote to renew and expand the Violence Against Women Act sends the matter to the House, which is writing its own version.

The 1994 law is designed to protect women and children from abuse, and historically has been without controversy. But this election year, gender politics roiled the debate for weeks.

Democrats accused Republicans standing in the way and waging a "war against women."

But Republicans never tried to block the measure. Instead they proposed removing specific references to protecting gays, lesbian and transgender people, and capping the number of visas for battered immigrants.