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After allowing the Violence Against Women Act to expire for the first time since 1994, 87 Republicans joined with 199 Democrats to renew an expanded version of the law credited with reducing domestic violence by as much as 67 percent.

The bill now heads to President Obama, who has said he will sign it.

“Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed the way we treat victims of abuse,” the president said in a statement.

The bill authorizes about $659 million a year over five years to fund current programs that cover transitional housing, legal assistance, law enforcement training and hotlines that serve victims of domestic violence.

Republicans refused to hold a vote on the Senate’s bill during the 112th Congress because they objected to expanded protections for Native Americans, undocumented immigrants and LGBT Americans.  A handful of Tea Partiers have called the tribal protections “unconstitutional.”

The House Republican version of the law, which does not include new protections, was voted on first and lost 257-166.

A majority of Republicans, 138, voted against the Senate bill. This technically violates the GOP’s “Hastert Rule,” which requires a majority of the House majority to support any legislation brought to the floor.

According to The National Review Online, House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) held a closed-door meeting with his caucus to warn them that there would be a “civil war” in the party if the House did not allow a vote on the Senate’s bill. After said meeting, only nine Republicans voted against taking up the bill — included in those were nine were Tea Partiers Steve King (R-IA) and Paul Broun (R-GA), both likely candidates for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

“I applaud moderate Republican voices in the House who stood up to their leadership to demand a vote on the Senate bill,” Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a sponsor of the Senate bill that passed two weeks ago, said.

As we saw in the “fiscal cliff” compromise and the Hurricane Sandy relief bills, the “Hastert Rule” is all that stands between the House GOP and actual governance.

Much of the president’s agenda, including comprehensive immigration reform and some alternative to the sequestration, would likely pass the House if bills were brought to the floor instead of being effectively vetoed by Tea Party members and Republicans afraid of primary challenges.

But every time Speaker Boehner violates the rule, he weakens the value of the majority and threatens his own job.

So despite this success, the painful cuts of the sequestration will begin to go into effect Saturday morning.

“First, after 20 years of overwhelming bipartisan support, opposition to the Violence Against Women is now the mainstream Republican position,” MaddowBlog‘s Steve Benen wrote. “About half the Republicans in the Senate voted against the law, as did more than half the Republicans in the House.”

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File


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