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Senate OKs Human-Trafficking Bill, Paving Way For Attorney General Vote

The Senate voted 99-0 to pass a measure that would increase penalties on human trafficking – a move that paves the way for a confirmation vote for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch.

The human-trafficking measure had been stuck in the Senate because of an impasse over language on abortion funding. But as NPR's Ailsa Chang reported Tuesday, the logjam was broken after negotiations between Republicans and Democrats. Ailsa said:

"Republicans wanted to apply the Hyde Amendment to [a] fund [ for sex-trafficking victims]. The amendment, which has applied to appropriations bills since 1976, would have prevented any of the funds under the trafficking bill to be used for abortions.

"Democrats said restrictions on abortions should apply to only taxpayer money — and that the fund created by the trafficking measure was not taxpayer money because it's collected from fines on people convicted of sex-trafficking crimes.

"To resolve the conflict, negotiators agreed to route two streams of money into the fund — taxpayer money and criminal fines. The taxpayer money had already been appropriated by Congress for community health centers, and it's subject to the Hyde Amendment. And only this money can be used for health care services. The criminal fines would be used for other victim services."

Lynch was nominated Nov. 8, 2014, by President Obama to succeed Eric Holder at the Justice Department. A full Senate vote on her nomination was put off by GOP lawmakers until the human-trafficking measure was dealt with. A vote on her nomination could come Thursday.

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