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Mitch McConnell sets up abortion showdown in the Senate next week

Mitch McConnell sets up abortion showdown in the Senate next week

Senate Republicans on Thursday vowed to pass a human trafficking bill in the coming days, despite ongoing Democratic opposition to anti-abortion language that could easily kill the bill next week.

"We're going to pass this legislation," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is hoping enough Democrats change their mind and allow a human trafficking bill to move forward next week. Image: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also predicted the Senate would ultimately pass the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, or JVTA, with the abortion language that's in the legislation today.

"The Senate will pass JVTA," McConnell tweeted. "The same bill that passed through Judiciary Cmt unanimously."

Despite this prediction, the Senate was preparing to leave town without having made any clear progress toward alleviating any of the Democratic objections to the bill, which could spell doom for the bill next week. The legislation creates a fund to compensate victims of human trafficking, but holds that none of the money in that fund can be used to provide abortion services.

Congress has prevented taxpayer-funded abortions for decades, but has only done so on an annual basis, and Democrats say they oppose the abortion language on the trafficking bill because it would be permanent.

Republicans have said that's a phony concern, and not enough of a reason to block a bill that would help victims of human trafficking. Still, Democrats have the power to prevent the bill from moving ahead next week, when the Senate will need at least six Democrats to vote with Republicans to advance the bill.

Democrats have said all week that the only way any Democrat would support the bill is if the abortion language were removed.

"This trafficking bill could pass quickly if the abortion language was removed," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "We hope Republicans will do the right thing for the interests of passing this bill and work with Democrats to remove the completely unrelated abortion language that has no business being in this bill."

Democrats also bristled at McConnell's comments that the bill will pass without any abortion-related amendments, and took that as a sign that there won't be any real process for considering amendments to the bill.

"If Senator McConnell is declaring at the outset that there will be no changes to the trafficking bill, then he clearly sees the amendment process as nothing but a charade," said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson.

But Republicans say Democrats are once again avoiding the regular process by which the Senate would normally consider a bill. Earlier in the day, McConnell offered Reid a deal that would give Democrats a vote on whether to eliminate the abortion language in the bill, in order to let it move forward.

But Reid objected to that deal, a decision he likely made because Democrats would lose that vote.

With few other choices, McConnell moved on Thursday to set up a Tuesday vote on whether to end debate on the bill, which will need 60 votes. With 54 Republicans in the House, the GOP will need six Democrats to vote with them in order to advance the bill.

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