February 5, 2013 — Lawmakers and activists are hopeful that Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) eagerness to advance anti-trafficking legislation will help overcome partisan disputes that stalled the measure last year, CQ Roll Call reports (Cadei, CQ Roll Call, 2/4).
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, first approved in 2000, provides grants to organizations to fight human trafficking, supports law enforcement and funds a hotline that received more than 11,000 calls in fiscal year 2010. The measure was reauthorized three times with bipartisan support before expiring in 2011 (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/30/12).
Rubio, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has made human trafficking one of his central foreign policy issues, according to CQ Roll Call. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is working with Rubio on a draft of the reauthorization legislation, and they are expected to introduce it in the next few weeks.
Attempts to reauthorize the anti-trafficking law derailed last year over HHS' decision not to renew a contract with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops because the group refused to provide certain reproductive health services when helping trafficking victims. Some House GOP members called the decision an attack on religion. Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and other fiscal conservatives objected to the cost of the legislation.
Opportunity for Compromise
In a recent interview, Rubio stated his desire to enact anti-trafficking legislation as soon as possible, although he added that religious groups have "legitimate concerns."
Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy and public affairs for USCCB, said the group has proposed a compromise with the Obama administration that would allow it to continue receiving grants. "The ball is in the administration's court," he said.
Meanwhile, representatives from the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking recently met with Coburn's staff to discuss his cost concerns. Although no agreement was reached, Cory Smith, senior policy counsel for the group, said boosting accountability and transparency provisions in the bill might help sway fiscal conservatives (CQ Roll Call, 2/4).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership