If there were still such a thing as a slam dunk in Washington politics, a routine reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 surely would qualify.

Instead, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are arguing over it, raising the possibility that this landmark legislation could fall victim to Washington’s now-chronic political paralysis and election-year gamesmanship.

The VAWA has helped to save lives, repair damaged ones, protect families and improve the skills of police officers, prosecutors, courts, medical personnel and social services providers in handling domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The VAWA has raised awareness substantially, removed legal obstacles to enforcing orders of protection across state lines and barred accounts of victims’ past sexual experiences from being used against them in most legal proceedings involving sexual violence.

Republican opponents say a proposed expansion of existing VAWA protections for undocumented immigrants makes it too easy to game the system.

They also object to expanding VAWA activities among Native American tribes in which domestic abuse rates are soaring.

And some Republicans object to a proposal to forbid recipients of VAWA grants from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation although in 2010 there were double-digit increases in reports of intimate partner violence by lesbians and gay men. There were also increases in the severity of the violence and in the frequency with which they were turned away from violence shelters and denied orders of protection.

Senate Republicans should stop playing games and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act now.