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House passes Violence Against Women Act re-authorization, Obama will sign

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(CBS) - The House of Representatives passed the Senate's version of a re-authorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act by a vote of 286 -138 Thursday morning.

The bill, which renews a 1994 law that aimed to set a national standard for investigating and prosecuting domestic abuse and sexual assault, expired in 2011. 

The version that the House voted on today passed earlier this month in the Senate, but the expanded protections it offered for immigrants, Native American women and women in the LGBT community faced opposition in the House. 

Republican members of the House proposed an amended bill, which Democrats and some Republicans rejected, and for a while, it looked like there might not be a vote.

"If you'd have asked me a week ago if this would happen I would have been skeptical," says Scott Berkowitz, founder and president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

But early this week, Republicans signaled that they would allow a vote on both bills. The House version failed - with a number of Republicans voting against it. The Senate version passed with unanimous Democratic support. 

The passage of the bill, which authorizes a wide array of services, including training for law enforcement, sexual assault awareness campaigns on college campuses, protection for human trafficking victims, and an increased effort to reduce the nation's backlog of rape kits, was hailed by groups around the country that work with victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

The Violence Against Women Act "has helped dramatically reduce the level of rape in this country," says Berkowitz. "It's brought so much attention to these problems, and that raised awareness gets people talking about taking actions that reduce risk."

In a statement, President Obama said Thursday that he will sign the bill "as soon as it hits his desk."

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