Government

No 'mansplaining' necessary: Sen. Joni Ernst responds to Chuck Schumer's criticism of her position on Violence Against Women Act

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst answers questions during an Aug. 20 town hall with employees at the DuPont Industrial Biosciences facility in southwest Cedar Rapids. Ernst on Thursday contrasted her bill on domestic abuse with a version passed by the U.S. House. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst answers questions during an Aug. 20 town hall with employees at the DuPont Industrial Biosciences facility in southwest Cedar Rapids. Ernst on Thursday contrasted her bill on domestic abuse with a version passed by the U.S. House. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Sexual assault survivor Sen. Joni Ernst has rejected Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s advice on domestic abuse and sexual assault legislation.

“I do not need to be mansplained to by Chuck Schumer. I am a survivor,” Ernst said Thursday.

Schumer on Wednesday said Ernst’s version of the bill does not include House language that would close a so-called “boyfriend loophole” that allows dating partners to buy and own firearms after a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence. That shows, the Democrat said, that Ernst is “simply afraid of the NRA” — the National Rifle Association.

“I’m not afraid of anyone, folks. I have been through the worst of the worst, and I am here today,” Ernst responded on a conference call with Iowa reporters.

“It’s all political for Chuck Schumer,” who doesn’t want her to score legislative victories because the Iowa Republican is up for re-election in 2020.

Schumer’s office declined to comment, but responded with a letter from the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and hundreds of allies calling on the Senate to pass the House version.

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Schumer, according to Ernst, ordered Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, to quit working on Ernst’s bill and introduce the version passed by the Democratic-majority House. Feinstein brought the House bill to the floor, but Ernst blocked action.

“Why on earth would we introduce a piece of legislation that will not make it through this body?” Ernst said.

Senate Democrats have acknowledged the GOP-controlled Senate will not pass the House bill.

Ernst said she plans to continue working with Feinstein to “find language that is suitable, practical and real.”

Democrats and gun control advocates are critical of Ernst’s Violence Against Women Act proposal because it does not close the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”

“Dozens of Iowa women have been killed as a result of the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ ” said Connie Simmons, a volunteer with the Iowa chapter of Moms Demand Action and member of the Everytown Survivor Network. Simmons’ niece was shot and killed by her estranged husband.

Ernst and Senate Republicans “are siding with the NRA by refusing to close the deadly loophole,” Simmons said.

Without that provision, she said, “far too many Iowa women will still be in danger of being killed by their dating partners — simply because they are unmarried.”

However, Ernst objects to a provision in the House bill she said would retroactively classify assault convictions as felonies. It would bar those convicted from owning or buying guns. That, Ernst said, would strip Americans of due process rights.

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“Simply disallowing people due process is not what we want to see. I think there are great ways to protect survivors in a way that doesn’t strip away people’s rights,” Ernst said.

Ernst described her bill as prioritizing the protection and support for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault, and enhancing penalties for abusers.

It includes a 10 percent increase in program funding, triples support for rape prevention and education and improves housing opportunities for victims and their children, especially in rural areas.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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