WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats, bolstered by Republican support, Monday launched a new attempt to broaden a law protecting victims of domestic abuse by expanding its provisions to cover gays, lesbians, and Native Americans.
The legislation to renew the Violence Against Women Act appeared on a smooth path toward passage in the Senate, possibly by the end of this week. Monday’s vote to make the bill the next order of business was 85 to 8.
Advocates hope that Republicans, smarting from election losses among female voters in November, won’t repeat their resistance last year to the Senate approach.
‘‘Allowing partisan delays to put women’s lives at risk is simply shameful,’’ Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said before the vote. He said he hoped convincing support for the legislation in the Senate would ‘‘send a strong message to House Republican leaders that further partisan delay is unacceptable.’’
House Republicans, including majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, say reauthorizing the 1994 act, which expired in 2011, is a priority.
Resolving partisan differences remains an obstacle: Last year the House and Senate passed bills but the House would not go along with Senate provisions that single out gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders for protection and give tribal authorities more power to prosecute non-Indians who attack Indian partners on tribal lands.
Kim Gandy, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, said that after last year’s election both parties are eager to demonstrate they are behind a pro-female agenda. She said her group, which supports the Senate bill, had received ‘‘very positive responses’’ from the offices of both Cantor and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top-ranked Republican woman.
The Senate bill, while making minor concessions to meet GOP concerns, is essentially the same as the measure that passed last April on a 68-to-31 vote, with 15 Republicans voting yes. It focuses on ensuring that college students, immigrants, Native Americans and gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people have access to antiabuse programs.