Senate votes to add human trafficking measures to VAWA

“We continue to fight human trafficking, and human trafficking is nothing more than modern day slavery,” Leahy said Tuesday. “It is not just a policy matter it is a moral issue.”

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Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) were the only senators to vote against Leahy's amendment.

Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) amendment would ensure that child victims of sex trafficking also have access to grants provided by VAWA, including educational services aimed to protect young victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) co-sponsored that amendment, which passed on a 100-0 vote.

VAWA provides grants to victims of domestic violence in order to encourage victims to leave their abusive situations. Some feel they can’t get away from their abusers because they might not have another form of family income, so the grants can provide housing assistance and cellphones for victims. Under this reauthorization bill, S. 47, these programs would continue for another five years if the package receives enough votes for final passage, which is expected Tuesday afternoon.

The Senate is still considering three other amendments to the VAWA reauthorization bill. Descriptions of those follow:

— Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) amendment is a technical correction that would clarify that in Alaska, Native American tribal jurisdiction would be for the Metlakatla tribe, which is the only tribe with land in Alaska despite other tribes residing in the state.

— Coburn’s amendment would consolidate duplicative programs within the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Coburn said his amendment would save at least $600 million that could be used to more quickly resolve rape cases by addressing the backlog of rape kit testing.

— Coburn’s amendment would encourage states to test convicted rapists for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) so that victims know if they need to seek treatment. If states refused to make such an adjustment to their laws, they would receive 20 percent less in VAWA grants. The amendment would also help provide the necessary treatment to the victims if they were at risk of infection.