Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gridlock over Trafficking Bill Has Special Effect on St. Louis Region

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gridlock over Trafficking Bill Has Special Effect on St. Louis Region

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * Human trafficking has become an issue du jour in Congress and bills to fight it have been pushed by several St. Louis- area politicians. But for now, it's being trumped by the politics of abortion.

The Senate's latest gridlock involving both those issues has also held up the nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general. Senate Republicans say they will not move on Lynch's nomination until the Senate passes a bill to set up a fund for human trafficking victims. But Democrats oppose a section of the trafficking bill that would prevent money collected under the legislation to be used for abortion, and on Tuesday they again stopped that legislation under the threat of a filibuster.

The trafficking legislation and the Lynch nomination each have particular significance for St. Louis and the region.

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin and Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., are supporters of legislation aimed at a broad array of human trafficking measures, including a Wagner bill attacking advertising of sex with minors that has already passed the House. Wagner has described St. Louis as a crossroads of substantial human trafficking, including minors caught in the sex trade.

The Lynch nomination is important for the region because of the heavy Department of Justice involvement in Ferguson. Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder's department is trying to forge an agreement with Ferguson to impose reforms on the city's police and court system in the aftermath of the fatal shooting Aug. 9 of Michael Brown.

If approved by the Senate, Lynch would assume responsibility for that work. She is expected to win narrow approval whenever the Senate votes, although several Republicans, including Blunt, have already announced they will vote against her.

Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, including Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., voted for the human trafficking legislation when it unanimously passed the Judiciary Committee earlier this year. But after discovering that the bill included the abortion-funding language, they now support a filibuster, drawing ridicule from Republicans. …

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