Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee
GOP senator wants Violence Against Women Act passage by year end
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is moving forward with her own bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) after bipartisan talks broke down this month.
Ernst is expected to introduce her bill this week, and hopes to pass legislation by the end of the year.
Her legislation, according to Ernst and a one-page outline of the forthcoming bill, would reauthorize and provide funding for VAWA, and includes provisions that triple the amount of funding for sexual assault prevention and enhance penalties for abusers.
"I am sorely disappointed that we were not able to come together on a bipartisan bill," Ernst told reporters during a pen and pad in her office. "What they're proceeding with is a bill full of political talking points."
Ernst and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) were tasked with coming up with a Senate compromise. Ernst announced during a floor speech that the talks had fallen apart and Senate Democrats introduced the House-passed VAWA last week.
The House legislation ran into pushback from lawmakers and the gun lobby because it eliminates the so-called boyfriend loophole by expanding a current ban on firearm purchases for spouses or formerly married partners convicted of abuse or under a restraining order to include dating partners who were never legally married.
Ernst acknowledged on Tuesday that the gun related provisions were a "stumbling block," and that the House bill cannot pass the GOP-controlled Senate.
The Violence Against Women Act lapsed in February after it was left out of a funding bill that ended the partial government shutdown. The statute provides funding and grants for a variety of programs that address domestic abuse.
To meet Ernst's goal of finishing up work on VAWA by the end of the year, lawmakers have a matter of weeks to break the months-long stalemate, an unlikely goal given the deep divisions.
Ernst said on Tuesday that she wants a vote on the Senate floor even if it's unclear if the bill can get 60 votes, which would require the support of seven Democrats if every Republican voted for it.
"We'll work out a path forward with Leader McConnell. I just hope that we can garner enough support. ... I think it's important that we bring it forward, and I think there would be a lot of Democrats really hard pressed to vote against this bill," she said.
Ernst praised Feinstein on Tuesday saying "I do not want to throw Dianne under the bus, because honest to goodness folks, she has been very good to work with."
"Just as of a week ago she still wanted to find a way forward," Ernst added.
But Ernst appeared skeptical that she'll be able to get Democratic co-sponsors, saying the politics in the chamber are "prohibitive."
"I think the dynamics of party right now, it's a little prohibitive on their side," she said.