The House sent legislation to combat human trafficking to President Obama's desk on Tuesday after a protracted debate in the Senate over abortion.
Passage came easily on a vote of 420-3. But the bill consumed weeks of floor time in the Senate and delayed Attorney General Loretta Lynch's confirmation vote due to a dispute over whether it would expand abortion restrictions.
The Senate eventually passed the measure last month by a vote of 99-0.
"I truly believe this bill will save lives," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who introduced the original House version of the measure with Rep. Ted PoeTed PoeA clear signal on Georgia’s future Overnight Tech: Dem presses Facebook on gun sales | Praise for new librarian of Congress | Fourth Amendment Caucus to push privacy concerns Overnight Cybersecurity: Guccifer 2.0 releases more DNC docs; China hacked banking regulator MORE (R-Texas).
Poe noted that slavery, although banned by the Constitution's 13th Amendment, remained a national problem in the form of human trafficking.
"This ugly scourge has risen its head again one more time," Poe said. "America can no longer deny the inconvenient truth of sex trafficking."
Senate Democrats blocked an earlier version of the bill that they warned would expand the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions.
Republicans questioned why Democrats didn't bring up the issue before the bill was easily approved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Democrats accused the GOP of not being transparent with them about the contents of the legislation, a charge that Republicans denied.
The office of Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGreat Lakes senators seek boost for maritime system Podesta floated Bill Gates, Bloomberg as possible Clinton VPs EpiPen maker to pay 5M to settle overcharging case MORE (D-Minn.), one of the bill's sponsors, later admitted that an aide knew about the abortion language.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPelosi urges end to Pentagon's clawback of soldier overpayments Coffman’s stance on climate change disingenuous, irresponsible Bill Murray honored with Mark Twain Prize MORE (R-Ky.) refused to allow a vote on Lynch's nomination until senators found a way to pass the human trafficking bill despite pressure from Democrats and the Obama administration to keep the issues separate. Lynch's nomination consequently earned the distinction of one of the longest confirmation delays in recent history.
Senators eventually settled on a compromise that requires money for the victims' fund to come from criminal fines and money previously appropriated by Congress.
- Jordain Carney contributed.