Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned Wednesday that Democrats would work to kill a bipartisan bill aimed at helping victims of human trafficking, unless Republicans agree to take out language dealing with abortion that Democrats oppose.
“Unless that language is taken out of the bill there will be no bill,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “We cannot have this legislation hijacked by an abortion issue.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is looking to go two-for-two against Senate Republicans this week, this time by blocking a bill that includes abortion language that Democrats don’t like. Image: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Reid’s comments set up another showdown between the Democratic minority and the Republican majority, just weeks after Reid won a big victory against the GOP on legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security. In that fight, Reid and Senate Democrats refused to allow the Senate to consider a House bill to fund DHS,
because that bill also defunded President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration. While Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate, Reid and his allies were able to prevent any movement on the bill, and Republicans were finally forced to admit defeat and pass a bill that left Obama’s immigration plan untouched.
Near the end of that fight, Reid was barking orders to both House and Senate Republicans that Congress could only pass a clean DHS bill, orders Republicans ultimately followed.
This time around, the fight centers on a human trafficking bill that would also prevent a program for victims of trafficking from being used to fund abortions. Some Democrats have said Republicans tried to sneak that language in the bill, but others have admitted it was in the bill from the start, and that Democrats just missed it.
Regardless, Democrats are once again saying they won’t allow the bill to move forward, by withholding Democratic votes needed to move the bill toward final passage.
“I say to my Republican friends in the majority, take the abortion language out of the bill,” Reid said. “It has nothing to do with abortion. I hope my Republican friends will choose to do the right thing and eliminate this unrelated issue from an otherwise good piece of legislation.”
Republicans criticized Democrats for suddenly trying to hold up the bill, but seemed to acknowledge that Democrats have the power to stop the bill if they want.
“I hope that something happens between now and the end of the week that causes some of our friends to reconsider this idea that they’re going to filibuster this bill that many of them cosponsored and many of them voted for,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the sponsor of the bill. “It would be a real shame and a tragedy if something that was designed to help these vulnerable kids was killed here in the Senate.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who earlier this month was forced to pass the DHS bill that Reid wanted, tweeted Wednesday, “Shame on Senate Democrats.”
Shame on Senate Democrats for blocking a bill to combat human trafficking over a regular provision that has long had bipartisan support.
— Speaker John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) March 11, 2015