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 guide to the committees: House Lawmakers debate allowing cameras in courtrooms Hey Congress: Where’s the ban on ISIS? 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 KlobucharDrug importation won't save dollars or lives Senators ask feds for ‘full account’ of work to secure election from cyber threats Sanders, not Trump, is the real working-class hero MORE (D-Minn.), one of the bill's sponsors, later admitted that an aide knew about the abortion language.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThough flawed, complex Medicaid block grants have fighting chance Sanders: 'If you don't have the guts to face your constituents,' you shouldn't be in Congress McConnell: Trump's speech should be 'tweet free' 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.