• Republicans Mollify Dems To End ‘Pointless Contrived’ Human Trafficking Fight

    The human trafficking fight in the Senate apparently ended Tuesday after Republicans agreed to change language in the bill Democrats see as an expansion of abortion restrictions.

    The language would prevent women from using their compensation — from a fund paid into by the perpetrators of the crime — to get an abortion. It’s a standard addition to spending bills, but Democrats argue it’s an expansion of abortion restrictions in this case, because the funds in this bill are not taxpayer dollars, but fines and fees.

    Senate Republicans have agreed to set up a separate fund paid into by taxpayers for medical expenses, and to restrict the fund from perpetrators to non-medical use. The same ban on federal funding of abortions will be in place, but since the ban technically applies to taxpayer dollars and not fines and fees, Democrats are satisfied.

    The medical fund will draw from money appropriated for community health centers in a healthcare bill passed last week, and will match the fund paid into by perpetrators dollar to dollar. (RELATED: McConnell’s Priorities: Balance Budget Then Increase Deficits In Separate bill)

    “Democrats and Republicans have come to agreement on a path forward on this pointless contrived fight,” Minority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “This is really good news.”

    “This compromise is evidence that when Democrats and Republicans sit down together and work toward a solution, good things can happen,” he added.

    Democrats voted the bill unanimously through committee and asked McConnell to bring it to the floor for a vote before noticing the abortion language. They initially accused Republicans of “sneaking” the language into the bill, but one senator later conceded her staff is to blame for failing to read the bill. (RELATED: Senate Dem Concedes Her Staff To Blame For Trafficking Bill Implosion)

    They’ve been blocking the bill for weeks, and in response Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch. (RELATED: Obama Demands Lynch Vote, Admonishes Dysfunctional Senate)

    Because of the deal, McConnell said the confirmation vote will happen this week.

    But Reid threatened to derail the bill again if Republicans don’t keep it in line during the amendments process. “I say to my Republican colleagues, be very careful that you don’t destroy this human trafficking legislation that is so important,” he said, referring to some of the amendments talked about being offered.

    “My senators are not going to sit back like shrinking violets and let this stuff go forward without responding in a fashion that will also cause difficult votes for my Republican colleagues,” he added.

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