Lost in the swirl of political activity over recent weeks is the fact that an important bill to curb the inhumane practice of human sex trafficking remains stalled in the United States Senate. That’s because Harry Reid’s minority caucus has mounted five filibusters to prevent debate on the legislation. Why? It’s hard to say, given that every single argument and excuse they’ve advanced has either been quietly abandoned, or fails basic factual scrutiny. But their underlying motive isn’t a mystery: They object to the bill’s inclusion of routine Hyde Amendment-style language that prevents public funds to pay for abortions, a longstanding precedent supported by a large majority of Americans. Because the anti-trafficking bill fails to upend this settled issue, Democrats are blocking even a vote to begin formal debate on the issue. Several of the Senators who have joined the filibuster were original co-sponsors of the legislation, which passed out of committee without a single dissenting vote on either side. The editors of the Los Angeles Times have seen enough of this cynical spectacle:
If ever there were a piece of legislation that should be able to sail through the fractious, politically polarized Congress, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act would seem to be it. Introduced by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, the bill has 33 co-sponsors, 12 of them Democrats, including California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Who could be against the bill’s hallmark feature, the creation of a fund to benefit victims of domestic trafficking, financed by assessments on the traffickers themselves? But no. The bill got stopped in its tracks when Senate Democrats belatedly noticed that the victims’ fund would be covered by the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of federal money for abortions. That has ignited a nasty fight, with Democrats accusing Republicans of overreaching by refusing abortion services to trafficked girls and women, and Republicans accusing Democrats of trying to undermine a long-established law. This page has never approved of the Hyde Amendment, and we have no desire to see its restrictions imposed on this bill or any other, for that matter. But the Hyde Amendment has been the law for many years. A fight over whether a fraction of the projected millions of dollars in aid to victims of trafficking and hunters of traffickers can be used on abortion services seems fruitless, and the bill should not be derailed by such a fight.
The editors go out of their way to note that they are staunch supporters of taxpayer-funded abortion — placing them outside the American mainstream on the issue — but essentially concur with liberal columnist Eleanor Clift that the Left lost that fight long ago. Give it up and pass this worthy law, they implore Democrats; we’ll see if Reid & Co finally buckle on their radical mission. Given that Hyde Amendment-style language has been sitting in the legislative text for months, and that Democratic staffers were alerted to its existence long ago, it’s not a stretch to conclude that Senate Democrats only “belatedly noticed” and moved to oppose this consensus restriction after the deep-pocketed abortion lobby cried foul. Reid has also indicated he’s considering crossing Nancy Pelosi and blocking a bipartisan Medicare reform effort over abortion funding as well, so it may be the case that Senate Democrats have received strict marching orders from their monied benefactors, meaning that the logjam will only end if and when the NARAL/Planned Parenthood elites grant permission. In the meantime, Senate Republicans have highlighted pleas from victims’ advocates, begging Democrats to drop their ideological crusade and support the critical law. Eleanor Gaetan of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women upbraided the recalcitrant politicians last month for subordinating real victims to a “phantom issue,” adding:
Speechless that superb U.S. anti-trafficking bill #JVTA is hostage to abortion politics. Offer an amendment & take a vote Dems, don’t block!
— Eleanor Gaetan (@EkGaetan) March 11, 2015
Seems like a reasonable solution, yes? Offer an amendment to strip out the abortion piece, have a vote, and let the chips fall. The problem is that Democrats know that they’d lose any such vote, and that a good number of their own members probably aren’t keen on voting in favor of taxpayer-funded abortions. Dick Durbin theatrically stated on the Senate floor that removing a single sentence from the legislation would clear the way for overwhelming passage. Mitch McConnell said, ‘okay, let’s vote to remove that single sentence,’ at which point Team Durbin objected and denied the chamber an opportunity to enact the precise change they were demanding. Meanwhile, Loretta Lynch (who now appears to have garnered majority support for her nomination) sits unconfirmed, as Republicans have tied a confirmation vote to Democrats relenting on their extreme abortion gambit. There is no reason for the GOP to blink in this battle of wills, especially because doing so would set a dangerous precedent, and would once again reward their counterparts’ hardball tactics.