Before U.S. senators attended President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening, the group voted overwhelmingly to extend the Violence Against Women Act.

The legislation, first passed in 1994, provides funding for programs and investigation of violent crimes against women. Votes to extend the bill had not taken place since 2011.

The measure, approved in a 78-22 vote, will allot a total of $659 million over five years for initiatives outlined in the act. The roll call among Republicans was split, with 23 GOP senators voting in favor of passage and 22 opposing.

Both Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker supported the bill.


According to a Washington Post report, many Republicans opposed the bill because of new language that had been added. Along with extending authority to tribal courts on Native American reservations to prosecute non-native abusers of Native American women, the bill included an extension of protection to gay victims of domestic abuse.

In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman for Corker said his vote was influenced by his time serving as mayor of Chattanooga between 2001 and 2005.

“As mayor of Chattanooga, Sen. Corker saw firsthand the need for resources to assist victims of violent crime, particularly women,” Laura Herzog said.

Office staff for Alexander was not able to respond immediately to requests for comment from

Next, members of the House of Representatives will consider the bill.

Since it was first passed, the Violence Against Women Act has been credited with helping to reduce the number of domestic violence cases reported, according to The Washington Post.

Updated @ 8:41 a.m.on 2/14/13 to add more information as it became available.