Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) On Anti-Trafficking Opposition In Congress

The big political headlines this week describe a Senate impasse around a bill meant to provide funding to help prevent human trafficking. A lightly cloaked provision in the Justice For Victims of Trafficking Act, which would prevent Federal funds from providing for abortion procedures for trafficked victims, lead many Democrat supporters of the bill to back away from the support. This Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told CNN's "State of the Union" that the Senate would not vote on the confirmation of Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch until the trafficking bill controversy was resolved.

In an interview with On Point today, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) spoke of her work on that and other anti-trafficking bills, and identified another source of opposition to additional anti-trafficking efforts in the US Congress: opposition to provisions in a homeless protection bill that would protect LGBT homeless youth from discrimination.

"As we look at numbers, we think about 45 percent of those runaways are gay, lesbian, transgender young children," Heitkamp told On Point. "We don't want them to be discriminated against. That's created some challenges for the bill. I don't know on what grounds why anyone wouldn't want to serve a human being regardless of their sexual orientation. But that's kind of where we're at right now."

Heitkamp also told On Point the ongoing impasse against both the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act and the Justice For Victims of Trafficking Act should be expected in a divided Washington.

"It's just symptomatic of the dysfunction that is Washington, DC," Heitkamp said. "If in fact someone is a traffic victim, they are a victim of rape. None of the prohibitions would really apply in this case, but the way it was introduced in the bill wasn't as open and transparent as it should have been."


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