The Senate spent last week debating S 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act but ran into major problems. S 178 attempts to establish new funding through the use of the Crime Victims Fund to provide services to victims of all human trafficking (not limited to sex trafficking), it also creates greater law enforcement to prosecute human trafficking. The Judiciary Committee passed both S 166 (a companion bill) and S 178 on February 28 after a hearing. The legislation, however ran into major road blocks when the bill was amended after committee adoption with substitute language that included some technical and other changes. A process that is not unusual but in this case included language that restricted the use of victim’s funds relating to the issue of abortion. After that there was a dispute between both sides about how the legislative language was inserted and whether the two sides knew what was being done.

By week’s end it was not clear whether the Senate would move forward with the abortion-related language included. As a result there may not be the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster in which case the bill could be put aside although Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has indicated he may delay a vote on the new attorney general until they free this bill. During the week several amendments were being debated or at least submitted.   Among them were amendments by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) that would provide a fix to Medicaid to enhance the use of Therapeutic Foster Care similar to S 429, the Quality Foster Care and Family-Based Services Act , legislation he is cosponsoring. He also has amendments to change the definition of homeless for runaway and homeless youth and has an amendment that would mandate training through CAPTA in regard to victims of trafficking.