Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings MORE (D-Conn.), the lead Senate sponsor of the bill, said the legislation would help improve the treatment of third-country workers who are lured to work in Iraq and Afghanistan only to be defrauded or enslaved.
"Modern-day slavery by government contractors — unknowingly funded by American taxpayers — is unconscionable and intolerable," Blumenthal said. "Current law prohibiting human trafficking is insufficient and ineffective, failing to prevent or punish abuses.
A co-sponsor, Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senate intel panel has not seen Nunes surveillance documents: lawmakers With no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder MORE (R-Fla.), said it is unacceptable that these abuses are often supported by U.S. taxpayer dollars.
"This bill will help crack down on this dehumanizing practice, particularly in government contracting labor operations, and I am proud to support it as one more step we can do to punish human-rights abuses," Rubio said.
Under the bill, contractors with contracts worth $1 million or more would have to implement plans to prevent all abusive practices, and would have to notify the government if they have evidence that a subcontractor is involved in prohibited conduct.
The enforcement provisions of the bill would allow for criminal penalties, in part by expanding current rules related to the treatment of foreign workers inside the United States to foreign workers outside the country. The bill would also allow the government to remove certain employees or suspend contractors when violations are found.
Blumenthal's bill, S. 2234, is also co-sponsored by Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing ObamaCare repeal faces last obstacle before House vote MORE (R-Maine), Al FrankenAl FrankenFriends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Lawmakers share photos of their dogs in honor of National Puppy Day Franken challenges witness endorsement of Gorsuch MORE (D-Minn.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillUnder pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support Overnight Defense: General warns State Department cuts would hurt military | Bergdahl lawyers appeal Trump motion | Senators demand action after nude photo scandal The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE (D-Mo.) and Rob PortmanRob PortmanOvernight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes Vulnerable Senate Dem: Border tax concerning for agriculture MORE (R-Ohio).
The House companion bill, H.R. 4259, was sponsored by Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), and is co-sponsored by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Reps. Gerry ConnollyGerry ConnollyHouse Oversight grills law enforcement on facial recognition tech Overnight Cybersecurity: White House says Trump confident DOJ will hand over wiretapping evidence | Dems push for surveillance law reform DC Metro rushed into yearlong repair program, watchdog finds MORE (D-Va.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.).
Issa's committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., with Blumenthal and Portman expected to testify on the bill at that time.