A bill to help end human trafficking has been stuck in a deadlock in the Senate for weeks, making everyone from me to the President frustrated that partisan quarrels are putting a hold on legislation that could help thousands of trafficking victims. On Wednesday, the Senate has finally done something they haven't made news for doing in a while: they agreed to disagree and move the bill through. In a long-overdue show of compromise, the Senate unanimously voted Wednesday afternoon to pass the anti-human trafficking bill and move along Loretta Lynch's bid for Attorney General.
According to The New York Times, the bill has been stuck in Senate for about six weeks. Democrats have been refusing to pass the bill because it contains some language that would block funding for abortions for the victims. According to them, they did not see the language when the Republicans initially added it in because they didn't read it completely. The bill's hold-up has also clogged the machinery for Loretta Lynch's nomination to the position of Attorney General — Republicans have been refusing to consider Lynch's nomination until the Senate Democrats passed the bill. Today, they finally agreed on a compromise that prioritizes the rights of victims and punishment for traffickers.
Changes to the bill were mainly the work of Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington. In the type of compromise you might expect from a bipartisan government, the new bill addresses Democrats' concerns about limiting abortions by splitting funding for a trafficking victims' fund into two parts. Money collected from fining trafficking offenders will go towards non-healthcare related services. For the rest of the services — aka, healthcare related services — the federal money allotted to community health centers will make up the difference. This way, many sex trafficking victims will be able to legally get abortions under the Hyde Amendment's exemption for victims of rape.
Senator Murray told The New York Times what Jon Stewart argued on his show last month — that this bill was neither the time nor the place to hold up legislation because of political differences.
I know that Senator Cornyn and many others agreed with us that an effort to fight back against human trafficking in our country is, without question, no place for gridlock and dysfunction.
As far as the political backup stalling Lynch's nomination confirmation, President Obama himself has said the delay is "embarrassing."
I have to say that there are times where the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far. This is an example of it.
After five months of delay — Lynch was nominated in November 2014 — the Senate will move forward with Lynch's nomination on Thursday morning and finally vote to confirm it.
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