Senate Deal On Human Trafficking Bill Paves Way For Vote On Loretta Lynch Nomination
A deal on the human trafficking bill that has been pending in the Senate for the better part of a month appears to have opened the door to a final vote on Loretta Lynch’s nomination as Attorney General:
WASHINGTON — After weeks of difficult negotiations, the Senate on Tuesday reached an agreement on a bill to help victims of sex trafficking, paving the way for a confirmation vote on Loretta E. Lynch to replace Eric H. Holder Jr. as attorney general.
“I’m thrilled we were finally able to come together to break the impasse over this vital legislation,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, the main sponsor of the bill. “I look forward to swift passage in the Senate so we can ensure victims of human trafficking receive the resources they need to restore their lives.”
A vote on the sex-trafficking bill was expected as early as Tuesday afternoon.
Disagreement over a provision that would ban criminal fines put into a victims’ fund from being used to pay for abortions created a broader stalemate in the Senate as Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said he would not schedule a vote on Ms. Lynch’s nomination until the Senate passed the trafficking bill.
Other matters, such as a measure that would give Congress a voice in the nuclear negotiations between Western nations and Iran have also been on the legislative runway, awaiting the fate of a relatively small bill.
It has been about five months since President Obama nominated Ms. Lynch to succeed Mr. Holder, meaning she has waited longer than any other cabinet secretary nominee in the past three administrations. With the stated support of at least five Republicans, she is expected to be confirmed.
he agreement on the trafficking bill ends a protracted debate on a once-bipartisan effort to fight trafficking by increasing penalties for perpetrators and support for victims. The bill hit a snag last month when Democrats said they had become aware of the abortion provision.
As a compromise, the fund to assist victims will now essentially be split in two. One pool of money, collected from criminal offenders, will be deposited into the General Fund of the Treasury and used for non-health care services, which will not be subject to abortion restrictions. Other money would come from that already appropriated by Congress for Community Health Centers. It would be available for health care and medical services and would be subject to longstanding laws restricting the use of federal funds for abortions.
As I noted last week, it has been over 160 days since President Obama first named Lynch to replace Eric Holder, and while part of the delay since then was due to the fact that the Senate agreed to postpone consideration of the nomination until after the New Year, the delay has been longer than each of the previous seven Attorney General nominees combined. Now it appears to be over.