Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to learn to “play ball” with Democrats instead of trying to roll them, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Thursday in a hallway interview. Schumer, the heir apparent to Minority Leader Harry Reid , called the Kentucky Republican's decision to hold hostage Loretta Lynch’s nomination as attorney general over the abortion dispute on the sex trafficking bill “a big mistake” and said Democrats are still holding the line against any expansion of the Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion funding.
“Look, the Democrats, we hung tough on every time they’ve challenged us," the New York Democrat said. "They ought to learn not to try to roll us, but to play ball with us and they can get things done. That’s what McConnell said he wants to do but he keeps trying to roll us.”
At a news conference opposing the insertion of anti-abortion language into the sex trafficking bill, Schumer declared that Republican efforts to pick off Democrats and get to the 60 votes needed to advance had once again failed — and said the GOP now needs to come to the table for a real compromise that would not expand the Hyde Amendment.
Schumer called Cornyn’s latest compromise offer — trying to graft Hyde language from the just-passed doc fix bill to the human-trafficking bill “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., declared that maintaining abortion rights for human-trafficking victims is “fundamental” to the legislation, which would govern restitution paid by criminals to victims.
“Never before have we privileged the concerns of criminals over the rights of women,” he said.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, remains angry at Republicans for stalling Lynch, saying it affects the national security of the country. He recalls Republicans urging swift passage of President George W. Bush’s attorney general nominees for that very reason.
Without access to abortion, sex-trafficking victims can't be "truly free" from their slavery, Blumenthal added.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said talks are ongoing with Republicans to try and resolve the issue, but said that as of yet there has been no breakthrough.
Human-trafficking victims attended the news conference, urging Republicans to drop the Hyde language. Stacy Jewell Lewis called the language — which includes exceptions for rape and incest — “insulting” to sex-trafficking victims.
"Are sex-trafficking victims not walking rape victims? Haven't they already been humiliated enough? If they are identified as victims of sex trafficking, you know they have been raped. So this language is an insult to every victim of sex trafficking."
Related: Path Forward on Lynch Nomination Tied to Abortion Language Sharpton: Lynch Delay Is 'an Insult to Every American' Republican Opposition to Lynch Might Make History The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.