WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval on Thursday to a bipartisan bill to renew the landmark 1994 Violence Against Women Act, after rejecting as inadequate an alternative version offered by its Republican leaders.
On a vote of 286-138, the House sent the bill, earlier approved by the Democratic-led Senate, to President Barack Obama to sign into law.
In an embarrassing setback for Republican leaders, their version was soundly defeated, 257-166.
House Republican leaders, under pressure from their own members, agreed to permit a vote on the Senate bill largely to get the issue of domestic abuse against women behind them.
Republicans were dogged in the 2012 election campaign by controversial comments by several congressional candidates on abortion and rape.
On Election Day, Obama won a second term with 55 percent of the women's vote, underscoring his party's advantage with this group.
The Senate bill would renew the 1994 Violence Against Women Act and expand the law's protections to gays, immigrants, Native Americans and sex trafficking victims.
Critics, including women and civil rights groups, charged that the House version, despite claims to contrary by Republican leaders, would weaken these protections.
Initially crafted by Vice President Joe Biden when he was a member of the Senate, the 1994 law created an Office of Violence Against Women in the U.S. Justice Department.
Grants are provided to states and localities, as well as universities and nonprofit groups, to combat crimes against partner violence, sexual abuse and stalking.
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro and Susan Heavey; Editing by Vicki Allen and Eric Walsh)
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