The Iowa Republican wants to omit gun violence protections from the Violence Against Women Act, along with along with protections for LGBTQ people and Native Americans.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) blasted Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday for criticizing her proposal to strip key provisions from the House-passed Violence Against Women Act, accusing the New York Democrat of "mansplaining."
"I do not need to be mansplained by Chuck Schumer. I am a survivor," Ernst said on a conference call with members of the Iowa media. "I'm not afraid of anyone, folks."
The comments came in response to Schumer's suggestion earlier this week that Ernst's decision to propose a version of the act without provisions to disarm domestic abusers indicated she is "afraid of the NRA." Schumer has been urging a vote on the House version, which has been stalled along with more than 400 other House-passed bills in what he has called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's "legislative graveyard."
The National Rifle Association strongly opposes the version of VAWA endorsed by Schumer, which passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in April, because it would prohibit those convicted of dating violence and stalking from purchasing guns.
Studies have shown a close link between domestic violence and gun crimes, and that mass shooters often have a history of being domestic abusers first. As of now, many people convicted of felonies are prohibited from purchasing or owning guns. Since domestic abuse and stalking crimes are often considered misdemeanors, many convicted are still legally allowed to buy a gun — a loophole gun violence advocates have urged Congress to close.
Ernst said Thursday that closing the loophole would amount to retroactively increasing the punishments for people convicted in the past. "What we can't do is go back, change the law as it existed in 1975, and expect that that is due process. It is not," she argued, adding, "Simply disallowing people due process is not what we want to see."
Ernst also claimed that Schumer was only objecting to her version of the bill because he does not want her to get a legislative win before her 2020 reelection race. "Basically anybody that's up in 2020, Schumer doesn't want to move on legislation sponsored by them," she charged.
Ernst's VAWA proposal also removes portions of the 2013 Violence Against Women Act that allowed Native American nations' tribal courts jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against women committed by non-Native abusers on tribal land and eliminates a House-backed section authorizing training for how to competently support LGBTQ victims of abuse.
Ernst, who won her first term in 2014, is expected to face a tough reelection race next year. A recent Morning Consult poll found her net approval at -4, down 9 points from the previous quarter. She has voted with Donald Trump more than 91% of the time; the latest polling by the same firm puts his approval rating in the state at just 42%.
The Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC that supports Schumer and the Senate Democrats, slammed Ernst on Thursday for "sending a message that she's not serving the needs of domestic violence victims and those in the most vulnerable communities. Iowans and victims of domestic violence deserve better than Senator Ernst."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.