March 16, 2015 — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in an interview Sunday said that the Senate will not hold a confirmation vote for U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch until the chamber passes a human trafficking bill (S 178) that contains a contentious antiabortion-rights provision, the New York Times reports (Huetteman, New York Times, 3/15).
Background on Trafficking Bill Dispute
The legislation includes various provisions aimed at curtailing human trafficking and targeting perpetrators. The legislation also would create a compensation fund for survivors of human trafficking, using money from fines assessed on those convicted of sexual abuse or crimes related to human trafficking.
However, a dispute erupted over language from anti-choice legislators that would bar money in the fund from being used for abortion services.
Supporters of abortion rights who object to the language said it would expand existing restrictions on abortion funding by permanently applying the Hyde Amendment to the survivors' compensation fund, which is financed by fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders.
Meanwhile, lawmakers who oppose abortion rights have so far refused to remove the language from the bill (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/13).
McConnell had previously said the Senate would hold a vote on Lynch's nomination this week.
However, he said in the interview Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that while he had hoped for a vote this week, "if we can't finish the trafficking bill, [a vote on Lynch's nomination] will be put off again" (New York Times, 3/15).
McConnell said, "If they want to have time to turn to the attorney general" then "we have to finish the human trafficking bill," adding that his comments were "not a threat" (Wright, Politico, 3/15). He said that action on the human trafficking bill is needed "because the next week we'll be doing the budget and the next two weeks after that Congress is not in session."
Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards in a statement said that McConnell's comments represented "politics at its worst." She added, "Opponents of safe and legal abortion are using a bill that was supposed to help women to hurt women and hold up the important Senate business of confirming a well-qualified nominee to serve as Attorney General."
Adam Jentleson, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said in a statement, "There is nothing stopping the Senate from confirming Lynch and continuing to debate the trafficking bill this week, except Senator McConnell's unwillingness to bring her nomination up for a vote" (Ye Hee Lee, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 3/15).