A bipartisan duo of women senators is trying to salvage the Senate's human-trafficking bill and proceed to a vote on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch by stripping out a reference to controversial abortion language, but they don't yet have the support of either party's leadership. Now with the Senate adjourning Thursday night until Monday, and the budget next up on the docket, it's unclear how or if this situation will resolve itself. The trafficking legislation won't get another vote until after the budget is finished.
Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced plans Thursday to remove the reference to the Hyde Amendment that is currently in the bill and route the legislation through the appropriations process. The move would still make the money funneled through the appropriations process subject to Hyde rules—which prohibit federal funding for abortions except in instances of rape or incest, or if the mother's life is in danger—but the direct reference in the trafficking bill would be changed.
"The Hyde language is not in our bill," Heitkamp said. "It simply says it creates the fund and that the fund will be subject to appropriations."
Collins said on the Senate floor that the amendment removed the reference "that has been the source of this controversy from this authorizing bill, but does not alter that restriction on federal funds that has existed for 39 years."
The proposal is moving closer to what Democrats are looking for, but Republican leadership is so far uninterested.
GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who floated his own compromise proposal Thursday morning, said that he appreciated their work, but he was not planning to sign on.
"Anything that erodes the Hyde Amendment, I cannot support," Cornyn said.
Heitkamp said she did not have the backing of Minority Leader Harry Reid at this point.
"This is something Susan and I have been talking about," she said. "We hope they consider it."
With a bipartisan proposal coming late in the game, a resolution on trafficking may not come until April, leaving Loretta Lynch waiting and Democrats, some of whom are already implying that Lynch's nomination is being stalled over race, fuming.
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