A bill to aid human-trafficking victims and confirmation of the nominee for U.S. attorney general are both mired in the mud as Republicans and Democrats indulge their partisan instincts in a standoff over abortion policy that will have little, if any, effect on anyone's decision to terminate a pregnancy.
It's a ludicrous triumph of politics over governing.
The measure to establish a fund to aid people exploited by human traffickers has wide bipartisan support. It would be funded by a new $5,000 fee paid by convicted sex offenders, so it wouldn't cost taxpayers anything. But the bill includes a provision that bars the use of any of the money to pay for abortions. That's the rub.CartoonDavies' latest cartoon: Transition of powerCommentSubmit your letterReader essaysGet published in Newsday
Republicans say the provision is nothing more than a restatement of an existing ban on the use of federal funds for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or when the life of a woman is endangered.
Democrats insist it would expand the ban -- called the Hyde amendment -- to nontax dollars.
The fight is all sound and fury signifying, if not nothing, then little, since victims who want abortions are likely to get them anyway. Still, Democrats are filibustering the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. And Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he won't allow a vote on Loretta Lynch's nomination for attorney general until the fight over the trafficking bill is resolved.
The Republican Senate majority has the upper hand in the trafficking fight. Democrats can prevent a vote in a pique over the abortion prohibition, but they don't have the votes to pass the bill without it. They should accept reality and end their filibuster. Human trafficking destroys lives. Congress should do what it can to help victims.
For their part, Republicans should stop throwing up ridiculous roadblocks and allow the vote on Lynch, currently the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, which includes Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, who is superbly qualified for the job of attorney general.
Giving something to get something -- that's what it takes to govern.