Senate Republicans and Democrats reached a deal Tuesday to vote on a bipartisan human trafficking bill, paving the way for a confirmation vote on the stalled nomination of Loretta Lynch to become attorney general.
“There is a bipartisan proposal that will allow us to complete action on this important legislation so we can provide help for the victims who desperately need it,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “As soon as we finish the trafficking bill, as I’ve indicated for some time now, we'll move to the president’s nominee for attorney general in the next day or so.”
The human trafficking bill, which was supposed to be an easy bipartisan vote, devolved into a partisan battle as Senate Democrats blocked the legislation over concerns about abortion language in the bill.
Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., negotiated a compromise that creates two funding sources for the bill. The first would come from fines collected on sex traffickers and would be used to help trafficking survivors, except for health care. The money wouldn’t fall under the federal abortion funding restrictions known as the Hyde Amendment, which generally bans federal funds from being used on abortion.
The second source would come from Community Health Center funds, which already are subject to Hyde. Democrats said the dual funding approach ensures that the Hyde language isn’t expanded to include non-taxpayer dollars or to new programs.
“No compromise is perfect, and I’m sure Sen. Cornyn would say the same thing,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who played a role in the negotiations, said Tuesday in remarks prepared for the Senate floor.
Lynch is currently U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier approved her nomination, with several Republican votes. But her future has been stuck in political limbo for more than six months, a casualty of the partisan wars on Capitol Hill, where normal business has slowed to a crawl and a rare but simple bipartisan accomplishment is hailed as a groundbreaking success.
Cornyn, the sponsor of the human trafficking bill, said he was “thrilled” to settle the issue over the abortion language, adding that he looked “forward to swift passage in the Senate so we can ensure victims of human trafficking receive the resources they need to restore their lives.”
With a small group of Republicans on her side and widespread backing from Senate Democrats, Lynch should clear the hurdle to replace Eric Holder and become the nation’s chief law enforcement official. If so, she would be the first African-American woman to do so.