For a Beltway-based media complex that routinely and lazily advances stories focused on the GOP’s supposed extremism, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult for many in the press to understand the course upon which Democrats have embarked. As a result of this confusion, only the expressly political press has elected to cover the rapidly unfolding debacle surrounding an anti-human trafficking bill.
On Tuesday, Senate Democrats are expected to attempt to block the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, despite the fact that 13 Democratic members co-sponsored the bill. Their objections are centered on the fact that the bill contains language that expands the Hyde Amendment – a measure that prohibits spending taxpayer funds on abortions.
Dems blocked it because it includes Hyde amdt, which bans federal funding of abortion with exceptions for rape, incest & life of the mother.
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) March 17, 2015
Harry Reid, who's long insisted he's pro-life, now insists on fed funding for elective abortions as a condition to help trafficking victims.
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) March 17, 2015
“Provisions similar to the Hyde Amendment are included in other types of programs, such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program,” Politico reported.
Republicans were aghast that Democrats were sticking to their insistence that their aides had not read the bill.
Indeed, Democrats appeared to have ample chances to spot the language. For example, the abortion language is on pages 4 and 5 of the bill. But when it came up in committee, the top Democrat, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, offered an unrelated amendment on the same page — apparently not noticing the abortion provisions.
The bill was approved unanimously by the judiciary panel. And on Monday, a full two weeks later with still no ire over the abortion language, Democrats agreed to move ahead.
“The resulting bill received zero dissenting votes in a Senate Judiciary Committee vote,” a flabbergasted Guy Benson observed. “But once pro-abortion activists started raising hackles, Democrats decided to filibuster a law that would “help victims of sex trafficking”
Just so we’re crystal clear, Senate Democrats’ apparent commitment to (deeply unpopular) taxpayer-funded abortion is causing them to actively block an anti-human-trafficking bill. They knew the pro-life language was in there for months, but now they’re pretending to have suddenly discovered it, to their shock and horror — but they don’t want to actually vote on whether to strike the supposedly offending language. Incredible.
This development should put to rest for good the defunct notion that the GOP majorities in Congress are both unrepresentative of the public and reflexively obstructionist. A cursory look at the polling data suggests that is the Democratic Party that is out of step with the public on the issue of abortion.
According to Gallup polling, only 33 percent of the public identified as pro-life in 1996 compared with 56 percent who described themselves as pro-choice. Today, both sides of that debate have achieved parity. As of May of last year, a majority of the public said abortion should be “legal only under certain circumstances.” In March of 2014, a CNN/ORC survey revealed that a majority of American surveyed continue to oppose the use of taxpayer funds to subsidize abortion procedures for those who cannot otherwise afford it.
Those who back abortion on demand, subsidized or otherwise, join those who want all elective abortion made illegal on the fringes of American political thought.
Even The Washington Post’s editorial board has determined that Democrats have chosen the wrong terrain to wage a fight over abortion politics.
Far more significant, though, is whether the provision justifies the defeat of this important legislation. We wish Senate Republicans had not chosen a bill about human trafficking as a vehicle for abortion politics; a House-passed version contains no such language or restrictions. But Democrats overstate the extent to which this provision would lengthen the reach of the Hyde Act. True, the money in question would come from fines and not federal taxpayer dollars, but since the fund would be a federal creation, is that such a stretch? Also true, this anti-abortion provision would be in effect for five years, while the Hyde Act must be reauthorized annually. But since the Hyde Act has been in force for four decades, the practical difference again is slight.
There is a reasonable way for the two sides to compromise. The bill should make clear that the exceptions for abortion written into the Hyde Act — for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger — are broadly enough defined in this bill. Girls and young women who are sold into prostitution are victims of rape, and the law needs to reflect that. The question is whether the senators who want to accomplish something can overcome the advocacy groups and politicians who would rather use this controversy as one more opportunity to raise funds and sharpen divisions.
The “pox on both your houses” language here is perfunctory and uncalled for. If Democrats had a genuine objection to the language in this bill that was approved in committee, they could have raised it long before reproductive rights groups forced them to the mattresses. In the service of that constituency, Democrats are prepared to hold up a bipartisan bill designed to help the victims of human traffickers. If that’s not extremist, I don’t know what is.