Last week the Senate cast more votes to overcome a filibuster on S 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. It ran into major problems over an abortion-related issue. That became even more complicated early last week when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tied a delay in a vote to confirm attorney general designee Loretta Lynch to a need to pass S 178 first. The delay in her confirmation is now setting records for delays and adding to the partisan crossfire.
S 178 attempts to establish additional 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 ran into major road blocks when staff later recognized a section that reads:
‘(3) LIMITATIONS. — Amounts in the Fund, o r otherwise transferred from the Fund, shall be subject to the limitations on the use or expending of amounts described in sections 506 and 507 of division H of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (Public Law 113 – 76; 128 Stat. 409) to the same extent as if amounts in the Fund were funds appropriated under division H of such Act .”
Such language refers to what is labeled as the “Hyde amendment” (named after former Congressman Henry Hyde) which restricts use of federal funds in regard to abortion services. Short of some compromise language which would require some type of alternate restrictions or references it’s likely the Senate will leave this week for a two week break without a vote on the bill or the attorney general.