Senate talks on stalled Violence Against Women Act reauthorization unravel

Senate talks on stalled Violence Against Women Act reauthorization unravel
© Greg Nash
Months of negotiations to try to come up with a bipartisan deal in the Senate to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) have hit a stumbling block.

Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstIowa Democrat tops Ernst in early fundraising report EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 The Hill's Coronavirus Report: CDC Director Redfield responds to Navarro criticism; Mnuchin and Powell brief Senate panel MORE (R-Iowa) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLet's support and ensure the safety of workers risking so much for us Congress eyes changes to small business pandemic aid Graham announces vote on subpoenas for Comey, Obama-era intel officials MORE (D-Calif.) had been tasked with trying to come up with an agreement to reauthorize VAWA, but Ernst said this week that she'll be offering her own bill, indicating the talks have reached an impasse.
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"Just this week, after months of work and mountains of effort toward a bipartisan bill, it all came to a screeching halt. Once again, the Democrats are putting politics ahead of people and have decided to move forward on the House-passed VAWA bill," Ernst said during a speech on the Senate floor.
 
A spokesman for Feinstein didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 
 
The House passed its bill in April over objections from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Republicans, who argued the legislation would restrict gun rights by preventing people convicted of stalking or abusing dating partners from buying a gun.
 
The bill would eliminate 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.

More than 30 House Republicans voted for the measure. But the opposition from most House Republicans, as well as the NRA, made it unlikely it would pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Ernst, during her speech, said she and Feinstein had made "real progress" on trying to find an agreement before talks hit a roadblock. She also warned Democrats that the House-passed bill was "a non-starter" in the Senate and "is chock-full of partisan political talking points."
 
VAWA 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 get a bill through the Senate, lawmakers will need to find a proposal that can get 60 votes — meaning support from both Republicans and Democrats. 
 
Ernst noted that she's planning to put forward a "good-faith proposal" and urged Democrats to support it.
 
"This bill will support survivors and hold abusers accountable. It is also a bill that I believe can pass the Senate and get the president's signature," she said.
 
Democrats have lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic leaders say Trump testing strategy is 'to deny the truth' about lack of supplies Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff House members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes MORE (R-Ky.) for not moving the House-passed bill, arguing that VAWA has become part of the GOP leader's "legislative graveyard."
 
"VAWA is yet another example of how Leader McConnell has turned this chamber into a legislative graveyard. Even the most common sense bills with broad support from one end of America to the other that are passed by the House, here a bill protecting women from violence, meet the grim fate at the hands of the Senate's self-proclaimed grim reaper," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocratic leaders say Trump testing strategy is 'to deny the truth' about lack of supplies Trump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' Senate Democrats call on Trump administration to let Planned Parenthood centers keep PPP loans MORE (D-N.Y.) said earlier this year.
 

“The Senate has already waited over 200 days to take up the bill to reauthorize VAWA passed by the House with bipartisan support," she said. "I’m outraged that Senate Republicans are taking direction from the NRA and will hold up the bill over my commonsense provision to update federal law to protect dating partners and prevent convicted stalkers from buying a gun."