The vote was 263-158 for the Democratic-crafted legislation that would authorize hundreds of millions of dollars in annual grants to programs for victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse and stalking.

It also closes what gun-control advocates call the “boyfriend loophole” – barring gun sales to convicted abusers of current or former dating partners. The measure also would prohibit gun sales to people found guilty of stalking misdemeanors and those under one-party restraining orders.

The NRA opposes the bill based on these provisions and kept score on how lawmakers voted.

The landmark 1994 law, frequently reauthorized over the years with little debate, expired with the 35-day government shutdown. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saw an opportunity to revise the law to address an issue crucial to her new diverse freshman class – tighter limits on gun use – while appealing to suburban female voters ahead of the 2020 election.

Both of Maine’s representatives, Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and Jared Golden of the 2nd District, voted in favor. The measure now goes to the Senate.

Buoyed by a more-widespread embrace of gun control in their own ranks, Democrats seized on the NRA’s opposition with the support of outside activist group who have been pushing to expand prohibited gun sales.

“Members have a decision to make,” Pelosi tweeted last week, “will they protect survivors of stalking & domestic abuse? Or are they willing to allow their convicted stalkers & abusers to have access to firearms?”

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., is a co-sponsor of the Violence Against Woman Act. Associated Press/Andrew Harnik

Other Democrats have been even more explicit in calling out the Republican Party’s opposition to VAWA as a political wedge issue for women. Asked about the lack of bipartisanship on the bill – which has only one Republican co-sponsor, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania – Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., a co-introducer of the bill, said optics were obvious.

“I am sure my colleagues in the Republican Party would not want to be on record not supporting the Violence Against Women Act,” she said. “What message does this send to women? … What message does this send to Republican women about the welcome that they receive from Republicans? Why would you run for office?”

Frustrated Republicans complained about Democrats’ political maneuvering on the bill.

“We were for renewing it. Nancy Pelosi is the one who blocked it,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said Thursday of the Violence Against Women Act. “She wanted it to expire so, like so many other issues, she can use different groups of people as pawns in her political games. … Why don’t we actually work together to solve these problems?”

The Washington Post’s Scott Clement contributed to this report.

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