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 FeinsteinCalifornia Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat Biden wins endorsement of Sacramento mayor Roberts under pressure from both sides in witness fight 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 ErnstGrassley signs USMCA, sending it to Trump's desk Progressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump 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 SchumerCollins walks impeachment tightrope 'Emotion' from Trump's legal team wins presidential plaudits Biden says he would not engage in witness swap in impeachment trial 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.