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Anti-trafficking bill would give security, border patrol more training

WASHINGTON — After a long delay, the Senate Wednesday easily approved a bill to combat human trafficking.

The vote was 99-0. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was the only senator who did not vote.

The bill had been hung up on a controversial abortion provision — the so-called Hyde Amendment — attached to the measure by Republicans without the knowledge of most Democrats. The amendment is a common provision attached to most government funds for health programs that bars such funds from being used to pay for abortions, but Democrats said it was an unprecedented expansion to nontaxpayer dollars.

But that issue was resolved Tuesday after weeks of negotiations. The deal is essentially a cosmetic fix that lets both parties claim a win: It allows Republicans to say they’ve won their battle against funding abortions with government money, and Democrats to say they’ve avoided expanding the Hyde Amendment.

The human trafficking bill has the fingerprints of several Nevada lawmakers.

An amendment approved by senators would give airport security agents and border patrol officers extra training in how to detect people being smuggled into and out of the country, and their captors.

The measure by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., would require the Homeland Security Department to provide trafficking awareness instruction at airports and border crossings. He said it would provide a layer of security to detect a crime that “all too often… is hidden in plain sight.”

The bill also would boost government aid to local programs that help homeless young people and runaways who are susceptible to being victimized by sex traffickers. A similar runaway youth bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., passed the House earlier this year.

Passage on the anti-human trafficking measure clears the way for a vote on Loretta Lynch to become the new attorney general.

That confirmation vote is expected to happen Thursday, per an agreement Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced after the trafficking vote.

Lynch’s nomination has taken on historic significance — and not just because she would be the first African-American woman to lead the Justice Department. No other nominee for attorney general has had to wait this long for Senate confirmation — 166 days — since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

Lynch supporters had accused Republicans of delaying in part because she’s an African-American woman, a charge they dismiss.

Contact Review-Journal Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@reviewjournal.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC

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