Senate races

Senate GOP targets vulnerable Dems with trafficking bill robocalls

Greg Nash

The National Republican Senatorial Committee will launch a second round of robocalls on Thursday hitting two of its top Senate Democratic targets in 2016 for blocking a vote on a human trafficking bill.

The NRSC sent out a first round of robocalls in Nevada and Colorado earlier this week, attacking Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) for blocking a vote on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

{mosads}On Thursday, a second round of calls will go out to independent women in those states. According to a script provided first to The Hill, these additional robocalls will highlight human trafficking statistics, urging listeners to call the senators and tell them to “stop playing political games” over the bill.

“Senator Bennet just voted again to block bipartisan legislation to combat human sex trafficking,” the robo-call in Colorado says. “The Denver Post recently reported that Colorado is a ‘breeding ground’ for human trafficking so one would think Senator Bennet would be leading the charge to get this bill passed, instead of blocking it.  Call Senator Bennet today at 303-455-7600 and tell him to stop playing political games with women and children who have been victimized by human traffickers.”

Reid and Bennet are both are up for reelection in 2016 in purple states where Republicans hope to compete in a cycle where it’s the GOP that’s overwhelmingly on defense. 

Reid, the Senate minority leader, is the top prize for Republicans, who hope he runs for reelection again just so they have the opportunity to finally vanquish him. Bennet was the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last cycle.  

The robo-calls will also go out in Connecticut, Oregon and Washington, hitting Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

That trio of lawmakers is also up for reelection in 2016, although their seats in traditionally blue states are believed to be safer.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was sailing towards passage until Democrats balked, accusing Republicans of sneaking an expansive interpretation of the Hyde Amendment into the bill, which blocks the use of federal funds for abortions.

Democrats are threatening to continue blocking the bill until the abortion provision is removed. 

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky shot back, accusing Republicans of inserting a “poison pill” into the human trafficking bill.

“Make no mistake about it, Republican Senators are currently playing politics with women’s health to the detriment of victims of human trafficking,” Barasky said in a statement. “The anti-human trafficking bill is a bipartisan effort and it should be cleared of this poison bill that is preventing it from becoming law as quickly as possible. In their first months in the majority, Republican Senators have played politics with the Department of Homeland Security, stopping Iran from becoming a nuclear power, and now women’s health and victims of human trafficking. Voters will remember these kinds of despicable political games come 2016.”

Republicans argue that the amendment was in the bill all along, and are threatening to hold a nomination vote for Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s pick for attorney general, until Democrats agree to a vote.

Late on Wednesday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) floated a possible compromise to the impasse, saying he is looking at having Congress appropriate the money for the victims fund established by the bill, versus having the money come from criminal fines. 

—This story was updated at 9:50 a.m. 

Tags Harry Reid John Cornyn Michael Bennet Patty Murray Richard Blumenthal Ron Wyden

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