Anti-hu­man traf­fick­ing bill passes US Se­nate


The Se­nate unan­i­mously passed leg­is­la­tion Wed­nes­day to help the vic­tims of hu­man traf­fick­ing, end­ing a tor­tu­ous par­ti­san stand­off over abor­tion that also de­layed con­fir­ma­tion of U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s at­tor­ney gen­eral nom­i­nee.

The vote was 99-0 to ap­prove the Jus­tice for Vic­tims of Traf­fick­ing Act, which ex­pands law en­force­ment tools to tar­get sex traf­fick­ers and cre­ates a new fund to help vic­tims. The House has passed sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion and the White House has voiced sup­port.

The unan­i­mous out­come put a bi­par­ti­san punc­tu­a­tion mark on leg­is­la­tion that started out with wide sup­port from both par­ties, but veered into a par­ti­san cul-de­sac last month when Democrats said they’d no­ticed lan­guage that could ex­pand fed­eral pro­hi­bi­tions on abor­tion fund­ing. How or why Democrats had failed to see the pro­vi­sion in the first place be­came a topic of frosty dis­pute on Capitol Hill, with Repub­li­cans point­ing out that the bill had unan­i­mously passed com­mit­tee, and one Demo­cratic se­na­tor’s of­fice ac­knowl­edg­ing that an aide had in fact known of the abor­tion lan­guage.

The par­ti­san grid­lock on the traf­fick­ing bill and Lynch made no one look good, and with all sides ea­ger for a res­o­lu­tion Sen. John Cornyn worked with Sens. Patty Mur­ray, a Demo­crat, and Demo­cratic Leader Harry Reid to ar­rive at a com­pro­mise, which they an­nounced Tues­day. It ad­dresses Demo­cratic con­cerns about ex­pand­ing pro­hi­bi­tions on spend­ing fed­eral funds for abor­tions, by split­ting the new vic­tims’ fund into two pieces.

One part of the fund would be made up of fines paid by sex traf­fick­ers, and it could not go for health ser­vices, ren­der­ing the abor­tion re­stric­tions moot. The other part of the fund, which could go for med­i­cal ser­vices, builds on US$5 mil­lion al­ready ap­pro­pri­ated by Congress for Com­mu­nity Health Cen­ters, which are al­ready sub­ject to abor­tion spend­ing pro­hi­bi­tions. The com­pro­mise al­lowed both sides to claim a win since Repub­li­cans en­sured any money for health ser­vices could not go for abor­tions, while Democrats could say that they had pre­vented pro­hi­bi­tions on spend­ing fed­eral money for abor­tions from be­ing ex­panded to a new source of money.


Sol­diers carry coffins with uniden­ti­fied bod­ies in Msida, on the out­skirts of Val­letta, Malta, Thurs­day, April 23, dur­ing a fu­neral ser­vice for 24 mi­grants drowned while try­ing to reach the South­ern coasts of Italy. The mi­grants died as a smug­gler’s boat crammed with hun­dreds of peo­ple over­turned off the coast of Libya on Satur­day as res­cuers ap­proached, caus­ing what could be the Mediter­ranean’s dead­li­est known mi­grant tragedy. The num­ber on the cof­fin is the num­ber of the uniden­ti­fied bod­ies that passed by the lo­cal morgue since the be­gin­ning of the year.

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