Sen. John CornynJohn CornynHow the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill GOP leaders express reservations a day after 9/11 veto override McConnell opens door to changing 9/11 bill MORE (R-Texas) slammed Democrats for threatening to block an anti-human trafficking proposal because of abortion language included in the bill.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, introduced by Cornyn, includes additional resources for law enforcement and establishes a fund to raise money for victims. The legislation also includes the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits funding from being spent on abortions.
A Democratic aide said that Democrats were unaware that the provision was in the legislation.
"It remains to be seen what the solution is. There's one way to make this bill bipartisan again, and that's to address this issue," the aide said. "This just shouldn’t be a partisan legislation. It's about ending human slavery."
But Cornyn dismissed the notion that Democrats didn't know what they were voting on.
"The idea that there's been some sort of ambush is just preposterous, it's just not credible," he said from the Senate floor. "They object to language that has been the law of the land for 39 years."
The legislation passed unanimously earlier this year out of the Judiciary Committee.
"You think they didn't read the bill before they put their name on it?" Cornyn asked, referring to the bill's Democratic cosponsors. "Our friends across the aisle have some outstanding staff. ... I don't believe that they would have missed a reference in this legislation."
If senators weren't informed that the legislation included the abortion provision, Cornyn had some frank advice: "If that's true, I'd get new staff."
The Democratic opposition is a sharp turn from Monday, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urged their colleagues to support the bill.
Cornyn said that Democrats supported President Obama's healthcare law even though it also included the Hyde Amendment.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) suggested that they were separate issues.
"I hope we're not going to get into a question where we compare apples with oranges and forget what we're supposed to be doing," he said, taking to the Senate floor after Cornyn spoke.
Acknowledging that the legislation likely wasn't going to be voted on Tuesday, Leahy urged his colleagues to come together and try to reach an agreement so that the legislation could pass.
"Let's not let political gotcha games stop us from legislation that might protect these people," he said.