Violence against women
The House approved a revised version of the Violence Against Women Act last week — without any “yes” votes from Nebraska’s all-Republican House delegation.
The measure includes a provision to expand the ban on gun sales to convicted abusers of spouses to include abusers of dating partners as well.
Closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” attracted the opposition of the National Rifle Association.
Reps. Adrian Smith and Don Bacon voted against the bill, while Rep. Jeff Fortenberry was the only member of the House to vote “present” on it.
“For the first time since coming to Congress I voted present because I reject the premise that Congressional dynamics prevented us from partnering on such an essential issue as the Violence Against Women Act,” Fortenberry said in a press release.
Fortenberry’s release did not specify what exactly he found objectionable in the legislation, but Nebraska Democrats highlighted the NRA’s opposition as they criticized the delegation’s lack of support.
“Nebraskans expect our members of Congress to do the bare minimum, like voting to protect women who are beaten by their partners,” state Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said in a press release.
In a statement, Smith said he objected to the bill because it “greatly expands the reach of the federal government” and has little chance of passing the Senate.
Bacon told The World-Herald that his opposition to the bill had nothing to do with the gun-related provisions, which he said he generally supports.
Rather, Bacon objected to requirements that shelters for abused women, including those run by faith-based organizations, accept transgender people.
Bacon said some faith-based shelters in the Omaha area and elsewhere aren’t comfortable having transgender people in the same sleeping quarters with other victims of domestic violence.
It’s a question of religious freedom, Bacon said, regardless of whether someone agrees with the particular policies of those organizations.
“I don’t think we should use the coercive power of government to tell these religious organizations they’ve got to do it differently,” Bacon said. “And that’s what’s being asked.”
Bacon said he hopes that the measure comes back from the Senate in a form he can support.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, voted against the measure, while Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, voted for it.
Axne said it included her amendment to increase funding for grants helping communities combat violent crimes against women and bolstering victim services.
Affordable Care Act and the courts
The House also approved, on a largely party-line vote, a resolution condemning the Trump administration’s support for a lawsuit to toss out the Affordable Care Act.
Democrats say if the lawsuit is successful, it would be devastating for people who rely on the ACA for coverage, particularly those with pre-existing conditions.
King and all three Nebraska House members opposed the resolution. Axne supported it.
Bacon said he was voting for folks in Nebraska whose incomes are being eaten up by sky-high premiums.
“Obamacare is killing the middle class,” Bacon said.
The Omaha-area congressman said he’s OK with the administration backing the court case as long as President Donald Trump is committed to protecting people with pre-existing conditions — and Bacon believes that he is.
Bacon also said Democrats are being hypocritical by criticizing efforts to end the ACA while saying the current health care system is so flawed that the nation needs to adopt a single-payer approach.
Windmills and cancer
Trump puzzled many last week when he suggested that noise from windmills causes cancer.
Both of Iowa’s Republican senators begged to differ with the president and touted the large amount of electricity their state derives from wind.
Sen. Chuck Grassley called the idea of wind turbines causing cancer “idiotic.”
Sen. Joni Ernst said it’s “ridiculous” to suggest that noise from wind turbines causes cancer.
“I have church bells that ring all the time across from my office here in D.C., and I know that noise doesn’t give me cancer,” Ernst said. “Otherwise, I’m sure I’d have church bell cancer.”