Senate Democrats are throwing a fit over language in a bill they asked Republicans to bring to the floor, but apparently didn’t read.
The 68-page anti-human trafficking bill has 13 Democratic cosponsors and was supposed to pass easily in a rare moment of bipartisanship, but Democrats are now threatening to block it because they suddenly realized it contains standard language preventing federal funding of abortions.
The bill unanimously passed the Judiciary Committee in February, and on Monday several Democrats called for the Senate to pass the bill. “I doubt there will be problems on my side,” Senate minority leader Harry Reid said Monday on the Senate floor. “If there are, I will work to clear them.”
But sometime Monday or early Tuesday Democrats suddenly noticed a provision in the bill blocking the bill from funding abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother — standard language added to spending bills — and threatened to block the bill until the language is removed.
“If my friend, the Republican leader is so in tune with getting this passed, take that legislation out of the bill,” Reid said on the floor Wednesday. “Otherwise it will not pass. Take it out.”
Democrats are accusing Republicans of sneaking the language into the bill, but Republicans insist the language has been in the bill since January, and have concluded Democrats either didn’t read the bill or were disingenuous in passing it through committee.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn sponsored the bill, and said it’s been publicly available online for months. “This idea that there has been some sort of an ambush is just preposterous,” he said on the floor Tuesday. “It’s just not credible.”
“Our Democratic friends have voted time, and time, and time, and time again for the exact same language they now say they’re going to filibuster on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act,” he said on the floor Wednesday. “Language they said they weren’t aware of when they voted for it.”
“They didn’t read,” he continued. “Their staff didn’t tell them about it.”
Democrats argue the insertion of the language is different in this case, because any money that would pay for an abortion comes from fines and fees, not taxpayer dollars. And in most bills the language must be renewed, but in this case would be permanent.
“I am appalled that on a bill intended to help women, Republicans actually have chosen to double down on their political fight against women’s health,” Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said on the floor Wednesday.
The bill would increase the penalty for human trafficking crimes and increase compensation and restitution for victims, but will be essentially dead if Democrats don’t allow it to the floor for debate and a vote Thursday.
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