Senators renew abortion battle

The bitter Senate battle over human trafficking legislation resumed Wednesday morning, with leaders sparring over abortion language in the bill that Democrats insist should be stripped out.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has scheduled a vote for Thursday on an amendment from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that would change how a new fund for human trafficking victims is funded. The change is intended to assuage Democratic concerns that the bill would expand the Hyde Amendment, which restricts spending federal money on abortions.

“What the Republican leader failed to mention is that, if the Cornyn amendment or the Cornyn language was adopted, it would change women’s reproductive rights permanently,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

{mosads}”Hyde has never, ever in the past applied to private money, nontaxpayer dollars. So that’s why my friend’s argument is totally illogical,” Reid said. “It has no basis in fact. We are not going to stand by to enlarge this so called Hyde Amendment to private money.” 

McConnell countered that Democrats voted overwhelming late Tuesday for a Medicare bill that included the Hyde Amendment.

“We hope Democrats’ … support for Hyde in last night’s Medicare vote will finally clear the way for passage of the anti-slavery legislation they have been filibustering over the very same Hyde principle,” McConnell said.

“It was never a morally tenable position, never. Considering what we saw just 12 hours ago, it is no longer politically tenable either.” 

Cornyn said Tuesday his amendment would ensure that funding for the trafficking fund moves through the congressional appropriations process. 

“We would basically handle all of the funds that go into this compensation fund through the regular appropriations process, and we will use these same Hyde Amendment language that was negotiated between Nancy Pelosi and Speaker Boehner in the ‘doc fix’ bill,” he said. 

Under the amendment, money in the victims fund would have to be transferred directly from the General Treasury Fund. Money from criminal fines will be then deposited into the General Treasury to offset the withdrawal.

“All money in the domestic trafficking victims fund must be derived from the general treasury, the routine and ordinary source for all federal funding,” Cornyn added Tuesday evening.

The anti-trafficking bill has been stalled for weeks because of the fight over abortion, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle trading blame for the holdup.

The fight over the bill has held up the nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general, which McConnell has delayed until the human trafficking legislation is finished.

The majority leader tried to increase pressure against Democrats Wednesday, saying, “This has gone on long enough. It’s time for senators of conscience to stand up and end this filibuster now.” 

Reid, however, said Democrats have offered Republican 10 proposals on how to move past the Hyde fight, but they’ve all been rejected. 

The pro-abortion rights Planned Parenthood Action Fund slammed Cornyn’s latest amendment Wednesday, calling it a “gimmick.” 

“What victims of human trafficking need is access to health services and other support, not the accounting gimmick that Senator John Cornyn has offered. His relentless effort to use the trafficking bill to advance an ideological agenda to limit access to abortion is part of a broader agenda that we are seeing all over the country at the state and now federal level,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.

Tags Boehner Harry Reid John Cornyn Mitch McConnell

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