New GOP Trafficking Bill Proposal Meets Resistance

Senate could return to the debate this week; Lynch vote still on hold

Senate Republicans are offering yet another proposal to revive a stalled human trafficking bill, but whether this effort can pick off Democratic votes to surpass a filibuster-proof threshold is another story.

The new plan from Majority Whip John Cornyn would use the same Hyde amendment language in a "doc fix" bill that easily passed the House with a bipartisan majority last month and that the Senate is expected to pass this week.

It's the latest twist in the weeks-long battle to finish off what was expected to be a rare showing of bipartisan comity that instead has devolved into partisan bickering, holding up a vote on the nomination of Loretta Lynch as attorney general. Democrats have protested the inclusion of abortion funding language into the bill.

It is likely the Senate could turn back to the human trafficking bill after the doc fix is completed, according to a Republican leadership aide.

Republicans may just need to pick off two moderate Democrats to reach the 60 needed to beat a filibuster. Thus far, four Democratic senators have broken ranks and voted in favor of the human trafficking bill: Sens. Robert Casey, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, and Joe Manchin.

"We will use the same Hyde Amendment language that was negotiated between Nancy Pelosi and Speaker Boehner in the doc-fix bill that we'll be voting on this afternoon," Cornyn said. "I don't know how in the world they could possibly object when we're answering, responding to their concerns and saying we're willing to work with you to address those, in the interest of all of these victims of human trafficking. We'll find out. My hope is the Senate rises to the challenge, just as we are in all those other areas."

But Sen. Patty Murray, the No. 4 Democrat, wasn't buying it: "At the end of the day, we will not accept language that simply hides the Hyde," she said. "If the Hyde language is in it and extended for the first time ever to non-taxpayer dollars, that is a nonstarter for all of us."

Democrats have offered nine  proposals of their own—all which have been rejected, Murray said, adding that using the language in the doc-fix bill doesn't resolve the problem

"It was unnecessary, I don't believe it should be in [the doc-fix bill]," Murray said, "but it is the same language that has always been used on appropriations—very different on the trafficking bill that is now on the Senate agenda at this time, which for the very first time ever uses non-taxpayer dollars and applies Hyde to them. That is a bridge we are not going to allow to be crossed."