The Senate came together Wednesday and showed unanimous support for an anti-human trafficking law, while also agreeing to a compromise on an abortion section that had kept the parties divided, as the bill was delayed for weeks.
After Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., settled the dispute on the abortion language, the Senate voted 99-0 on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The vote also paved the way for long-awaited consideration on the confirmation as attorney general of Loretta Lynch.
Lynch, who is the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, would become first female African-American to occupy the position if she is confirmed. A close vote is expected in the Senate.
Lynch is now supported by five Republicans and 44 Democrats, and also by the Senate’s two independents, giving her just enough votes to win the confirmation. Some Republicans have not yet made their option public, so she could gather more votes than the minimum.
The fight over Lynch turned out to be a major issue in Washington, as Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., denied the calls to move her nomination before the human trafficking bill was passed by the Senate.
President Barack Obama called for her to be confirmed.
McConnell defended the holdup to the trafficking bill, which was orbiting the Hyde Amendment. Named after the late Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., the amendment forbids abortions funded by taxpayer money. The bill would have restricted a victims’ fund collected from traffickers, which Democrats said it expanded the amendment’s reach.
The bill establishes two funds, after reaching a hard-fought compromise. One fund would use money collected from traffickers to back victims in non-health-related cases and a separate fund which will benefit of taxpayer funding for health services.
“Today we’ll finally vote to deliver much-needed resources for the victims of modern slavery, with Hyde expressly applying to all funds used for health and medical services just as it was in the original bill,” said McConnell.
McConnell praised Cornyn for his good work with Democrats. “He was determined to see justice for victims,” McConnell explained.
The bill means stronger laws against trafficking. Its new provisions, like those pushed forward by Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., which targets Internet sex trafficking by making it a crime to voluntary advertise a commercial sex with a minor.
Cornyn said on the floor that he believed it was Winston Churchill who said, “Americans do the right thing only after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”
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