It's 2015, and our Congress can't agree on anything — not even whether or not victims of human trafficking should be allowed to use restitution funds for abortions. The Senate is currently gridlocked over the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which failed to pass a cloture vote on Tuesday. Shortly after the failed vote, the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced a new attack campaign against Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats.
The NRSC is accusing Reid and his Democratic colleagues for blocking aid to victims of human trafficking. "With over 2,000 sex trafficked victims in #NV, one would think Sen. Reid would be leading the charge… instead of blocking it," the NRSC tweeted early Tuesday afternoon.
The committee also said via Twitter that it has begun launching "robo-calls" denouncing both Reid and Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.). The NRSC is particularly angered over the fact that Reid staged a filibuster to keep the human trafficking bill with anti-abortion language from receiving 60 votes on Tuesday.
In a statement, the NRSC said its members will call independent women voters in Nevada. "The calls urge Nevada families to call Harry Reid and tell him to stop playing political games with women and children who have been victimized by human traffickers," the committee said.
NRSC spokesperson Jahan Wilcox added that Reid is "torpedoing this bipartisan bill for political gain." Wilcox alleges that Reid is standing in the way of "bipartisan achievement" in the Senate.
The human trafficking bill was long a bipartisan measure until last week, when Democrats in the Senate noticed that the legislation contained an anti-abortion provision. That provision would apply the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal taxpayer funding from going toward abortions, to the victims' fund created under the human trafficking act. But the victims' fund is not taxpayer money, Senate Democrats contend, which raises suspicion over the reasoning for including this anti-abortion provision in a bill meant to provide more funding and resources for trafficking victims. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said on the chamber floor on Tuesday:
We're not talking about taxpayer money. We're talking about money collected from the very offenders who have already controlled too much of the lives of these women and girls. These survivors deserve more options, not fewer.
So far, Senate Republicans have not responded to the claim that this bill would expand the Hyde Amendment and, in turn, further block funding and access to abortion. Instead, the Republicans have continued to attack the Democrats for allegedly putting abortion before human trafficking victims. "If Democrats actually vote to filibuster help for oppressed victims of modern slavery ... I can't imagine the American people will forget it," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday.
However, as Leahy pointed out on the Senate floor, dozens of human trafficking organizations do not support the anti-abortion language in the bill. Leahy even read a letter signed by these organizations to his colleagues.
"Listen to the victims," Leahy said. "They say, 'take out this language' and let's move forward."
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