One of those lawmakers, Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma, said Tuesday he would have pressed for an amendment along those lines if the floor debate hadn’t been structured to ostensibly allow a vote on the clean Senate bill.
Human Trafficking Provisions
The bill includes provisions that would effectively reauthorize a 2000 anti-human trafficking law (PL 106-386) that was the subject of a fierce partisan battle last Congress.
Until the 112th Congress, the trafficking law — which creates and funds law enforcement and social services programs to combat sex slavery and forced labor in the United States and abroad — had been unanimously reauthorized three times. In October 2012, however, the Health and Human Services Department decided not to renew its contract with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for trafficking victims’ services, due to the bishops’ refusal to cover reproductive health expenses. That raised the ire of House Republicans, who deemed the decision yet another example of the Obama administration’s “war on religion.” Past GOP sponsors refused to move a bill without adding a conscience clause and other significant changes, making the bill toxic for Democrats.
This time around, Senate sponsor Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, sought to avoid getting bogged down in a similar fight, tacking the reauthorization language onto the Violence Against Women Act renewal when that bill, which he also sponsored, came to the Senate floor. That gambit paid off Thursday.