THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Byline: Sylvan Lane
WASHINGTON–House Speaker John Boehner ceremonially signed off Thursday morning on an anti-human trafficking bill introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, sending it to the White House.
The Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act passed the House on Tuesday and the Senate last month after Democrats blocked the bill over abortion funding language. As senators squabbled over the provision, Republican leadership refused to hold a confirmation vote for Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
The bill, which protects victims from legal consequences and supports them with a fund collected from trafficking fines, flew through both chambers with near-unanimous support. No senators and three representatives voted against it, and Boehner called it “another example of bipartisan progress on some of the people’s highest priorities.”
Reps. Ted Poe, R-Humble, and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., wrote the House version of JVTA and were among several dozen representatives at the Thursday ceremony, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“You don’t get much more bipartisan than a New York Democrat and a Texas Republican,” said Poe. “It changes the dynamics of child sex trafficking in the United States in that Congress says stopping the scourge is a priority,”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, also attended the ceremony, spurred by her previous work in the issue. She said she pushed for action on House Judiciary Committee and held a hearing in Houston to address the issue.
“Congress had to make this major statement that we collectively will not tolerate human trafficking on our soil,” she said.
Cornyn was unable to make it to event–the Senate majority whip was caught in the sprint to finish trade and surveillance legislation before Memorial Day–but echoed his fellow Texans in a statement.
“With this bill, we can begin to provide victims the help they need to heal, and importantly, to treat those who perpetuate these horrific crimes like the criminals they are,” he said.