On March 19, 2015, Senator John Cornyn asked for and was granted permission to address the United States Senate for a few minutes regarding what he sees as partisan politics in Washington.
” Mr. President, we find ourselves in the unusual posture of being stuck on a piece of legislation (JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING ACT OF 2015 ) that had 12 Democratic cosponsors and was supported unanimously by all Republicans and all Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and which uncharacteristically was brought to the floor without having to jump through the regular procedural hoops that legislation usually has to jump through that requires consent by all 100 Senators.
So when you think about combating human trafficking and particularly the targeting of 12- and 14-year-old girls who are of the typical ages and gender of the people who are victims of human trafficking, you would think that if there is anything that ought to be able to avoid the partisan wars here in Washington, DC, and the divisions that seem to separate us, it ought to be the subject of human trafficking. Well, I guess to say I was disappointed is an understatement. But I am determined to keep our focus on the victims of human trafficking, the people this would help rescue and help heal and get on with their lives. Yes, I am also determined to make sure we can demonstrate that we can function, something I thought Senators wanted to do.
After this last election there were a number of people who said: Gee, we would really like to change the Senate to restore its reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body, where we actually treasured and valued solutions more than we did scoring partisan political points.
I come here today in the spirit of trying to offer a solution that will help us get unstuck from where we have found ourselves. I see my friend, the Senator from Maine, who has been working tirelessly to try to help us get unstuck, and perhaps this will help.
Just to recap: The way this bill was structured is it would deal with the demand side of human trafficking; in other words, it would take the fines and penalties from the people who purchased these services and it would create a crime victims compensation fund, which in essence would be used to help provide the money to faith-based and other organizations that help rescue and help heal these victims of human trafficking. Then we heard from some of our colleagues on the other side that they wanted to change the way this was structured so that it was subject to the routine appropriations process and didn’t enlarge the way the traditional limitations on appropriations were treated under the so-called Hyde amendment.
Just to refresh everybody’s memory: Since 1976, all funding, all appropriations bills, and many authorization bills, including the Affordable Care Act and the Defense authorization bills, have been subjected to a limitation on the use of tax dollars for abortions except in the case of rape and in the cases where a physician certifies the health of the mother is at stake. The bill we introduced that was passed out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously and has 12 Democratic cosponsors has a reference to an appropriations bill that had that same limitation. The idea was that we wouldn’t try to change the status quo; we would try to maintain the status quo which has existed for 39 years. But then some of our colleagues on the other side said, when offered an opportunity to vote on an amendment stripping that language out, they would not even vote. They wanted to obstruct and filibuster this legislation instead.
I, for one, am more interested in getting to a solution than I am engaging in this partisan point scoring. I believe there is a sufficient number of Members of the Senate who are sick and tired of the dysfunction and who don’t want to be distracted by the politics but want to focus on how to help those 100,000 victims of human sex trafficking who are estimated to exist on an annual basis.
What I have come to the floor to do is to say let’s make this fund subject to the annual appropriations process that will preserve the money for the victims and it cannot be used for any other purpose, but it will be subject to the Appropriations Committee and the usual riders that have existed for 39 years. It won’t represent an expansion of the Hyde amendment, as some of our colleagues have expressed concerns about. It would, basically, again, maintain the status quo.
I came to the floor yesterday and my friend, the Senator from California, was here. I pointed out that not only did she cosponsor this legislation, she voted for it in the Judiciary Committee. But she now feels so strongly–and I know it is a matter of good faith and true conviction for her, but she feels like this is the place where we ought to fight this fight–we ought to relitigate the scope of the Hyde amendment. I don’t think we have to do that. I am proudly pro-life and I believe the Hyde amendment represents one little island of consensus in the wars over abortion that we have. That is why for 39 years we have had a limitation on tax dollars. Indeed, fines paid into this fund would be public dollars. It wouldn’t be generated from revenue, but it is not private money; once they are paid into this fund they are public dollars under my proposal, subject to appropriation on an annual basis by the Appropriations Committee. So now the money will flow from the victims fund through the relevant appropriations bills. It will be preserved for the victims and cannot be used for any other purpose, and all spending limitations that have routinely applied to those bills would apply to these funds as well.
So the question is, Can our friends who have been obstructing and filibustering this legislation take yes for an answer? Can they take yes for an answer? I think this will also be very revealing, because we will find out whether people are actually interested in a solution or are they trying to shut down the Senate and prevent us from functioning on anything. As I said before, if we can’t get the yes on an antitrafficking bill, Heaven help us on issues where there is not consensus, where there are genuine policy differences.
I believe we can do exactly, for example, what Senator Leahy, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, asked for on the floor on March 10. He said “but let’s have it on things it should be on–appropriations bills.” So I would say yes, my proposal would give what Senator Leahy asked for.
Then the minority whip, Senator Durbin, the Senator from Illinois, said on March 16:
Henry Hyde authored the Hyde amendment that said no Federal funds should be used to pay for abortion procedures except in very limited circumstances: rape, incest, and life of the mother. That has been put in appropriations bills every year since–without question, without challenge.
That was stated by the minority whip, Senator Durbin from Illinois. My proposal would facilitate exactly what he is arguing for. Can he say yes, take yes for an answer?
The minority leader, Senator Reid, said on the 11th: I served in the House of Representatives with Henry Hyde; a very fine man. He has had his name affixed to an anti-abortion bill, anti-abortion legislation for almost three decades. And it’s been continued year after year in appropriations bills.
That was spoken by Senator Reid, the Democratic leader.
As I pointed out, what has perplexed me so much about all of this is that our Democratic friends have routinely voted for appropriations bills that contain the same restriction. When it was said, well, now you are extending it to an authorization bill, I pointed out that they voted for this very similar restriction in the Affordable Care Act and the Defense authorization bill, so that argument doesn’t hold water; but I am giving them a chance to say yes, and, in essence, trying to find a way to break this impasse that has existed now for the last couple of weeks.
So that is the question. Now that we have made a proposal to them to give them what they have asked for and still preserve the 39-year limitation on the use of public dollars for abortion, can they take yes for an answer? I can’t wait to hear what their response is to that proposal.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.”
Source: Congressional Record
See related video: Cornyn to Senate Democrats: Don’t Play Politics At The Expense Of Trafficking Victims https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8buYPxgkWAg
See video: Cornyn: Human Trafficking An Issue ‘Right Now In All 50 States’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9bG8yRsskQ
See video: Cornyn: We Can Win the Fight Against Human Trafficking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNLfdmhdY1E