Senate Democrats continue to block a vote on a bill to help sex-trafficking victims because the bill does not fund elective abortions, but Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont signaled Thursday that he's open to a potential compromise to pass the bill.
Although the Hyde amendment, the prohibition on federal funding of abortion, has been attached to a variety of bills thorughout the years, Democrats say they object to the anti-sex-trafficking bill because it applies the Hyde amendment to fines paid by criminals rather than funds collected via taxation.
Republicans and pro-life leaders have argued that this is a distinction without a difference: What matters is that the Hyde amendment applies to federal funds, not whether those funds are called "fines" or "taxes." As long as the amount of funds appropriated is equal to the amount of fines collected, the bottom line of the federal treasury remains the same.
But Leahy suggested he'd be open to supporting the bill if this change were made. "We've put the Hyde amendment in all kinds of appropriations bills and let the appropriations committee decide that question," Leahy told THE WEEKLY STANDARD Thursday afternoon. "If they want to put in appropriation funds, then let the Appropriations Committee handle it as it always has."
Update: Leahy spokeswoman Jessica Brady emails TWS to say that the senator does not support the specific change proposed by Republican senator John Cornyn: "Senator Leahy is saying that more appropriations dollars is welcome, but that funneling traffickers’ money through the appropriations process does not get around the issue Senators have been debating. Note that earlier today, Senator Cornyn suggested making the victims’ fund in his legislation 'subject to the annual appropriations process.' That is not the same thing as appropriating new money."