Senate Democrats block anti-trafficking bill over abortion fight
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Senate Democrats blocked an anti-human trafficking bill Tuesday because of a fight over abortion.


Democrats are blocking the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which bolsters resources for law enforcement and victims, because it includes the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used for abortions.

The Senate voted 55-43 to moving forward with the legislation, with Republicans needing 60 votes to overcome the Democratic filibuster. Democrats also blocked moving forward on an amendment to the legislation.

The passage of anti-trafficking legislation was expected to be a bipartisan moment in the Senate, but Democrats balked early last week over inclusion of the abortion provision. They say Republicans misled them over whether it would be included.

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) said ahead of the vote that, unless the abortion provision is removed, the legislation will fail.

“Let’s be realistic, there’s been a sleight of hand here to get the abortion language in this bill,” he said. "That vote is going to fail. ... Republicans have chosen to manufacture a political fight."

But Republicans have denied they mislead Democrats. They say senators either failed to read the legislation, which passed unanimously out of the Judiciary Committee, or they are trying to pick a political fight.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) has tried to pressure Democrats to vote for the legislation. He said Sunday that the ongoing fight could delay a vote on Loretta Lynch's nomination to be the next attorney general. The vote was expected to take place this week.

He redoubled his efforts Tuesday, calling on the White House to help Republicans pass the legislation.

"The White House needs to get involved here, too," the Kentucky Republican said from the Senate floor. "So far, the White House has barely lifted a finger to help us pass this legislation."

Despite the ongoing fight, senators from both parties continued to insist they are still willing to work to reach an agreement on how to move forward with the legislation.

Republicans need six Democratic votes to overcome the filibuster.

Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents Manchin, Sanders to seek deal on Biden agenda Democrats struggle to gain steam on Biden spending plan MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE (D-Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWashington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill MORE (D-N.D.), and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal Sunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters MORE (D-W.Va.) sided with Republicans on Tuesday and voted to invoke cloture on the legislation. 

“It doesn’t matter how we got to this impasse, or who is or isn’t to blame — what matters is finding a compromise and a path forward," Heitkamp said in a statement. "My vote today is about moving on, so we can address this issue, remove divisive political provisions that don’t have anything to do with human trafficking, and gather the bipartisan support this issue deserves.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said that he believes Republicans will eventually be able to get enough Democratic votes.

"I just find it hard to believe that we won't persuade six Democrats to stop obstructing this," he told reporters ahead of the vote. "I just don't believe that Democrats will remain in lockstep opposition."

— This report was updated at 12:17 p.m.