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 ErnstWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Iowa) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' Senate confirms Trump's 50th circuit judge, despite 'not qualified' rating 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 McConnellSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump McConnell says he'll be in 'total coordination' with White House on impeachment trial strategy 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 SchumerSenate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave Krystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? MORE (D-N.Y.) said earlier this year.
 
Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Booker says he will not make December debate stage Yang: 2020 rivals in Senate should be able to campaign amid impeachment MORE (D-Minn.), who is running for president, knocked Republicans on Friday, arguing they wouldn't take up the House bill because of pressure from the gun lobby.

“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."