The Violence Against Women Act expired in February. While the Democratic House has responded, passing an expanded reauthorization of it in April, Moscow Mitch McConnell has refused to take it up in the Senate. The House bill extends protections for LGBTQ and Native American victims of domestic violence, which Republicans in the Senate (the House bill passed with some Republican votes) just don’t want to allow.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, had been trying to work with Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa to get a version done in the Senate. That didn’t work, so Feinstein attempted to bring up the House bill in the Senate. Ernst blocked her, insisting that she has her own bill and that it’s the only one that can pass the Senate. Except that, so far, it can’t. Jennifer Bendery at HuffPost reports that it doesn’t have Republican support, even among all of the conference’s women. Because her bill eliminates the protections provided for Native American women in the 2013 reauthorization of the VAWA and puts added, unnecessary restrictions on tribal courts, it’s unacceptable to plenty of Republicans and most particularly to Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Murkowski has all but said she’d oppose the bill.
“I want to emphasize the importance of passing a bipartisan VAWA bill with a strong tribal provision which empowers our tribal governments and respects tribal sovereignty,” Murkowski said during a separate hearing on her legislation on missing and murdered indigenous women. VAWA is a separate bill, but she made a point of speaking out in this venue. “I know we’ve got a Democrat version, we’ve got a Republican version out there. There is nothing―there is nothing partisan about making sure that Native women are protected.” That means Ernst’s bill is out for her. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine agrees, her spokesperson told Bendery, saying she wants strong protections for victims and prosecution for abusers “regardless of whether their crimes were committed on tribal or non-tribal lands.” Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi isn’t co-sponsoring Ernst’s bill at the moment because of “concerns raised by some constituents,” and Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona is not a co-sponsor and didn’t respond to Bendery’s request for comment.
In order for the House bill to be passed, the Senate would have to buck the NRA, which isn’t likely to happen. The House bill closes the “boyfriend loophole” in background check laws. As it stands, an abusive romantic partner who isn’t married to or living with or doesn’t have a child with a victim isn’t subject to background checks in purchasing firearms, even if the victim has taken out a restraining order against them. The NRA has vociferously fought this provision and McConnell’s office won’t commit to a time frame for any action on it.
So, thanks to McConnell and the NRA and the bigotry of a majority of Republicans, the VAWA, with the extra funding it provides for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, is essentially dead.
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