House Starts Trafficking Jam with Three Bills
The city of Washington, D.C. can be like an unruly child. And yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee tried to put the District in its place. Exercising its constitutional authority over the city, Congress pushed back against a controversial law that legalized assisted suicide in the nation’s capital. Led by Rep. (and physician) Andy Harris (R-Md.), members took the first step in toppling the District’s “Death with Dignity” policy by passing Harris’s measure along party lines (except for two squishy Republicans, Pennsylvania’s Charlie Dent and Washington’s Dan Newhouse). From here, the Financial Services bill — which also blocked taxpayer-funding for D.C. abortions — will head to the full House.
In another bit of good news, a trio of anti-human trafficking bills cruised through the House this week in a rare display of bipartisanship. Apart from directly cracking down on the sex trade through law enforcement and other means, members also gave their stamp of approval to a stronger detection system for the underground networks in the U.S. The measures, sponsored by our friends Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), and Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), take aim at several angles of the crisis by beefing up programs at the Departments of Labor, Justice, State, and Health and Human Services.
“Globally, it’s estimated that there are nearly 21 million people trapped in forced labor, including prostitution,” Walberg told me on “Washington Watch” Thursday. “In my home state of Michigan… there was a 52 percent increase in the numbers reported since 2015, so it’s going the wrong direction. And I think that’s why there has been a real emphasis here in the House to push back against that. And now 16 separate bills dealing with various component parts of how we get at trafficking — we get at purveyors, we get at some of the websites, we get at some of the agencies. My bill directly went after the Department of Labor in giving them enhanced ability to watch what’s going on.”
Democrats and Independents like Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (M.P.) was one of many who worked with Republicans to find common ground on an issue that concerns every American. “We may think that human trafficking is something that occurs in far-off countries. Unfortunately, however, the injustice of human trafficking happens right here in the United States as well. I have seen cases of terrible scourge, firsthand, in my own district, the Northern Mariana Islands… [W]e need to identify human traffickers and prevent cases like these before they happen.” With the Senate’s help, President Trump will have the opportunity to do just that.
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