Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight
2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation
Republicans are raising concerns that their status as in-cycle senators is impacting their ability to get Democratic support for passing legislation.
At least two bills being pushed by senators on the ballot next year - the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and a drug pricing measure - are currently stuck in legislative limbo.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who introducing a VAWA reauthorization this week, told a small group of reporters on Tuesday that she believes her up-for-reelection status is making it harder to get an agreement on the legislation, which provides funding and grants for a variety of programs that address domestic abuse.
"I think a lot of it does. You know, I was asked the other day too, would you be willing to take your name off of it if you thought it would move? Yes, I am. It is that important. This is not about Joni Ernst and wow it's nice to have a woman on the Republican side leading the bill," Ernst said when asked how her in-cycle status impacted the bill.
When asked why she thought the 2020 election was impacting the ability to get a deal on VAWA, Ernst, whose race is rated as "likely" Republican by The Cook Political Report, added that "it's only second, thirdhand information."
"But basically anybody that's up in 2020, [Senate Minority Leader Charles] Schumer [D-N.Y.] doesn't want to move on legislation that's sponsored by them. ... I can't tell you definitively that it came out of Chuck Schumer's mouth, [but] that has been indicated to me," Ernst added.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), another GOP senator who is up for reelection next year, knocked the Senate minority leader over "Schumer's graveyard" during a floor speech on Tuesday.
Asked separately about Ernst's concerns, Cornyn said he hadn't heard Schumer publicly say that but added that it "seems to be his practice."
And asked what that means for drug pricing legislation being backed by Cornyn, he added, "It means Sen. Schumer is going to object until we grind him down."
An aide, asked about concerns that Schumer won't help move bills sponsored by in-cycle Republicans, added that it's "our theory behind why he continues to block" the drug pricing bill.
Republicans control the chamber in a 53-47 majority. But legislation normally needs 60 votes to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate, meaning they need help from Democrats.
Schumer, when asked about Ernst's comments, argued that if Republicans wanted to get a vote on legislation they support, they should take it up with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who controls the floor schedule.
"We have tried to pass the Violence Against Women Act many times. ... The House passed it over 200 days ago. Sen. Ernst is simply afraid of the NRA," Schumer told reporters.
"Let her ask Leader McConnell, make a unanimous consent request to bring the House-passed bill on the floor and we'll debate it, and we'll debate her amendment," Schumer continued. "By the way, she just introduced it today, so she's a bit, no pun intended, jumping the gun."
It wouldn't be the first time election-year politics have bled over into the internal dynamics of the Senate.
During the 2016 election cycle, Senate Democratic leaders discouraged their colleagues throughout the year from working with vulnerable Republican senators, lawmakers in both parties told The Hill at the time.
Asked about Ernst's comments, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is up for reelection, noted Schumer had done something similar to her.
"That would not surprise me because I have had Sen. Schumer do that to me before," Collins said.
Collins called the dynamic "highly unfortunate" and noted that Republicans had recently allowed Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is up for reelection and viewed as the most vulnerable Democratic senator, to have an amendment vote on the Senate floor.
"It does not happen on our side of the aisle," she said. "It happens when you have highly partisan senators involved in leadership positions who are putting power over policy."