Senate Democrats introduce Violence Against Women Act after bipartisan talks break down

Senate Democrats introduce Violence Against Women Act after bipartisan talks break down
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats are moving forward with a companion bill to the House-passed Violence Against Women Act reauthorization after bipartisan talks broke down. 

Every Senate Democrat, led by Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHouston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence Life after Yucca Mountain: The time has come to reset US nuclear waste policy Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick MORE (Calif.), introduced the bill on Wednesday. 

“Given the overwhelming House vote and strength of that bill ... now is the right time to introduce it. There’s a dire need for this legislation,” Feinstein said.

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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.

“There’s no reason that the bill shouldn’t receive the same broad support in the Senate,” Feinstein added. 

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

Feinstein and Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstHouston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick MORE (R-Iowa) were tasked with coming up with a bipartisan deal in the Senate.

But Ernst announced last week during a floor speech that those talks had derailed and that she would be introducing her own bill.

"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 at the time.

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."

In a statement on Wednesday, Ernst blamed the current stalemate on Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerKrystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (D-N.Y.).

“But, just last week, in typical partisan fashion, Senate Democrats, at Minority Leader Schumer’s direction, walked away from the table, halting our discussions,” she said. 

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.

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.