Senate Leaders Announce Deal On Human Trafficking Bill, Clearing Path For Loretta Lynch Vote

WASHINGTON -- Senate leaders announced Tuesday that they've resolved a weeks-long standoff over a sex trafficking bill containing controversial anti-abortion language, clearing the way, at last, for U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch to get her confirmation vote.

Lynch has been waiting for more than five months for a confirmation vote. Most recently, Republican leaders tied the vote to passage of the trafficking bill. That bill has nothing to do with Lynch, but as long as it wasn't moving, neither was Lynch's confirmation.

Aides to Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) have been working for weeks to break the impasse. As introduced, the bill would have collected fees from sex traffickers and put them into a new victims fund that would be subject to the Hyde Amendment, the federal provision that bars the use of federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape and incest. Democrats objected to the abortion language in general, but more so because the bill expanded the Hyde Amendment to include private funds.

Under the deal announced Tuesday, the bill will create two funding streams. The first one flows from fines collected from sex traffickers, and would be used for survivor services excluding health care. This stream would not include Hyde Amendment restrictions. The second one would come from community health center funds that are already subject to the abortion limits.

The deal lets both parties walk away with a solid talking point: Democrats can celebrate that they prevented an expansion of Hyde, while Republicans can say they didn't cave on restricting abortion funds.

"I’m pleased that we were able to reach a deal that gets this done in a way that does not expand restrictions on women’s health to non-taxpayer dollars or to new programs, and provides survivors with real dedicated funds for the support and services they need," Murray said on the Senate floor.

"No compromise is perfect," she added. "I’m sure Senator Cornyn would say the same thing."

Cornyn said he was "thrilled" that they've reached a deal on the bill, which has broad bipartisan support.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he expects the Senate to pass the sex trafficking bill on Wednesday. From there, the Senate will move to Lynch's confirmation vote.

McConnell said the attorney general nominee should get a vote "in the next day or so."

Last week, President Barack Obama fumed that Republicans have made Lynch wait for so long, saying the delay is just "embarrassing."

CORRECTION: This story previously misstated the nature of the survivor services that would benefit from the funding collected from sex trafficking fines under the legislation. Those services would not include health care.



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