Senate Democrats appear to be setting up a fight with the GOP over extending the Violence Against Women Act. Republicans wary about being branded anti-woman object to the inclusion of gays and illegals, and say the Dems are trying to score political points.

Republican men seem to find themselves in a colossal mess with female voters about once a week these days. So cue a group of female senators—Democratic and Republican—who went to the Senate floor Thursday to register their disbelief that serious opposition exists among, yes Republican men, to updating the Violence Against Women Act, the 1994 bill that provides money for emergency shelters, counseling, rape crisis centers, and legal services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking.

“It’s hard to believe we are having a conversation in 2012 about protecting women from violence, but we are,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat.

Seven years ago, the bill passed the House 415 to 4 and then cruised through the Senate unanimously. Last month, a new version of the bill passed the Judiciary Committee, but only after all eight Republicans on the panel, all men, voted against it.

“I was stunned by the vote,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who sits on the committee. “Never before had there been any controversy in all of this time about this bill.”

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