Sen. Richard Blumenthal (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.
"By increasing preventative scrutiny and investigation, this legislation will stop egregious human-rights abuses on U.S. military bases, increasing security for our troops and preventing waste of taxpayer dollars."
A co-sponsor, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPoll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Milley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod 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 Margaret CollinsMcConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Welcome to ground zero of climate chaos MORE (R-Maine), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenAl Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' Andrew Cuomo and the death of shame Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? MORE (D-Minn.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri MORE (D-Mo.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname Centrist state lawmaker enters Ohio GOP Senate primary Emboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes 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 ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHow lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation Overnight Defense & National Security — Congress begins Afghanistan grilling Connolly rips Wilson over 'you lie' during Blinken hearing 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.