After two months in the majority, has Mitch McConnell finally hit a red line with Harry Reid? The confirmation of Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General has stalled for the last few weeks, and McConnell threatened to stall it indefinitely after Democrats blocked a human-trafficking bill. The Senate Majority Leader wants an end to Democratic obstructionism:
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, authored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), has been stalled after Democrats accused Republicans of sneaking anti-abortion language into the bill. McConnell noted that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee unanimously agreed on the bill before forwarding it.
“They all voted for the very same language in a bill in December,” he said.
Senate Democrats say Republicans sneaked the language into authorization measures. At question is a provision that the new Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund will be subject to Hyde Amendment limitations. The long-standing amendment prohibits the use of federal taxpayer funds for abortions. The new fund, created under the proposed bill, would be supported by fines imposed on traffickers.
The interview with CNN’s State of the Union certainly pressed McConnell on the length of time Lynch has waited for a confirmation vote, but blame for that belongs in large measure with Democrats, who could have taken up the confirmation in the lame-duck session of Congress last year. They chose to use their floor time on other issues. The drain of Republican support comes from Barack Obama’s executive-action plan on immigration reform, which prompted the legitimate question of whether the Department of Justice would enforce the law properly and stop Obama from violating statutes on work permits.
It’s interesting and somewhat revealing that this is the red line that McConnell chose to draw on Harry Reid’s attempts to hijack the Republican agenda. Dustin Siggins reported on Democratic obstruction last week:
The bill passed the committee by voice vote — meaning that it was so uncontroversial that it didn’t even require a recorded vote. Its popularity from the 113th Congress was expected to continue this year, and did until Democrats realized abortion funding was restricted.
“A list was sent to certain members saying, ‘Here are the changes from last year.’ This provision was not listed among them,” said Judiciary Committee Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.
And the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said Republicans were using “debates about some of the most vulnerable among us to advance their own political agenda.”
However, the bill’s lead sponsor, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, has said Democrats should have known the pro-life measure was included in the bill. He pointed to how the bill has Democratic cosponsors, was introduced nearly two months ago, and was marked up in committee in late February.
“That leads me to believe that some of the suggestions being made now, that there were provisions in the legislation the people didn’t know about, are simply untrue,” Cornyn said in a press conference.
“That presupposes that none of their staff briefed their senators on what was in the legislation, that nobody read a 68-page bill and that senators would vote for a bill — much less co-sponsor it — without reading it and knowing what’s in it. None of that strikes me as plausible.”
Reid doesn’t want the bill to hit Barack Obama’s desk for a good reason — it will force him to choose Planned Parenthood over victims of human trafficking with a veto. Obama doesn’t want one of his first vetoes of the 114th Congress to kill a bill that helps victims of human trafficking, so instead Reid’s doing everything he can to keep Obama from having to touch it at all. That’s what these belated claims of ignorance support.
That brings us back to Lynch. How long can McConnell hold out against media hype over Lynch’s confirmation, some of which we see in the video above? We’ll see, but the DHS issue involved actual security funding, which was a bad choice of leverage for Republicans. There’s no emergency in holding off on a confirmation vote on Lynch, and McConnell can keep coming back to the fact that Democrats co-sponsored this bill and unanimously supported it in committee — and dare them to keep torpedoing a bill that supports victims of human trafficking. That’s an easy battle to win, as long as one’s willing to fight it.