Domestic violence bill suddenly controversial

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Calif.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R, Maine)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Calif.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R, Maine)

Women's issues have become politically-charged on Capitol Hill, just as they have throughout the nation.

Now, the two major parties are at odds over a domestic violence bill.

Democrats say Republicans are refusing to stand by victims of domestic violence, but Republicans accuse Democrats of setting a political trap.

The Violence Against Women Act passes every five years with overwhelming support. But this year, it's in jeopardy.

"Combating domestic violence and sexual assault is an issue that we should all be able to agree on," says Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D, Minn.)

Since 1994, the act has provided federal grants for domestic violence programs and law enforcement.

But this year's version includes some new provisions, extending domestic violence programs to same-sex couples, giving Native American tribes more prosecution powers, and enabling some illegal immigrants who have been battered to get temporary visas.

"Is the danger any less real because you happen to be gay or lesbian? I don't think so!" Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Calif.) declared on the Senate floor.

But Republicans accuse Democrats of playing politics with domestic violence.

"I have cautioned my Republican colleagues not to walk into a trap," says moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine.

She supports the bill, but says Democrats are refusing to allow any changes to it because, she says, they want to label Republicans who vote against as soldiers in a war on women.

"Sadly," says Collins, "I think that some of my Democratic colleagues are trying to use this bill to drive a wedge between Republicans and women voters. This should not be a partisan issue on either side."

The debate comes on the heels of a controversy over contraception fueled by comments conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh made about a Georgetown University law student who advocated for birth control insurance coverage.

"It makes her a slut, right? Limbaugh said. "It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

Democrats believe that fight, and clashes over Planned Parenthood and abortion, will cost the GOP with women in the fall.

And Democrats moved up the timing of the domestic violence bill to capitalize on the controversies.

To see the Nancy Cordes report, click on the video in the player above.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' chief White House correspondent.