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More Senate Votes Expected on Human Trafficking Bill; Lawmakers Suggest Movement on Resolving Abortion Dispute

More Senate Votes Expected on Human Trafficking Bill

March 18, 2015 — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said that the Senate would hold a series of votes in the coming days days on a human trafficking bill (S 178) that failed in an initial procedural vote Tuesday because of disagreements over an antiabortion-rights provision in the legislation, Politico reports (Kim/Everett, Politico, 3/18).

Background on Trafficking Bill Dispute

The legislation includes various provisions aimed at curtailing human trafficking and targeting perpetrators. However, a dispute erupted over language from antiabortion-rights legislators that is included in the bill.

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 a 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, 3/17).

Upcoming Votes, Discussions on Antiabortion-Rights Language

McConnell has set up another vote to end debate on the measure for Thursday, according to The Hill's "Floor Action" (Carney, "Floor Action," The Hill, 3/17).

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that continuing to hold votes on the bill while it contains the antiabortion-rights language would be "another wasted week" for lawmakers, adding that the human trafficking bill "can't pass with the abortion language" still included.

However, Reid added that there had been some movement in resolving the disagreement over the contentious antiabortion-rights provision, although he did not provide specifics.

Reid said, "There's work being done to take the abortion language out. And that impetus is coming from" conservative lawmakers (Politico, 3/18).

Similarly, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said, "Conversations are going on" and that she "think[s] there is (a path forward)." She added, "Whether people want to take it, I can't say" (Geman, National Journal, 3/17).

AG Vote Could Be Delayed Until April

Meanwhile, a vote to confirm U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch could be delayed until April if the dispute over the antiabortion-rights provision is not resolved, Politico reports.

Specifically, the Senate might not vote until lawmakers return from their two-week recess that begins at the end of March.

McConnell has said that the Senate will not hold a confirmation vote for Lynch until the chamber passes the human trafficking bill. He reiterated that stance on Tuesday (Politico, 3/18).