Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated Wednesday morning that Democrats would reject the latest Republican proposal to reach a deal on anti-abortion language that has prevented passage of a bill to help victims of human trafficking.
Rejecting the GOP's latest proposal would not only delay that bill, but it is also expected to delay consideration of Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch. Senate Republicans have said they won't move to a vote on Lynch until the Senate finishes work on the trafficking bill.
For decades, Congress has prevented appropriated funds from being used for abortion, under language known as the Hyde Amendment to various appropriations bills. But Democrats say the trafficking bill is different, as it would apply that abortion restriction to a new fund that would be used to help victims of trafficking, a fund made up of fees and fines collected by the government.
Democrats say this would expand the ban on abortion funding beyond money appropriated by Congress, which is why they oppose it.
Late Tuesday night, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) offered a new way to get around the fight. He said he would support language that would require the fund to be drawn from the general treasury, instead of fees and fines.
"In other words, requirements placed upon funds under my bill would not be placed on money derived from criminal fees or penalties, something our Democratic friends seem to have some objection to, but they would only be placed upon money drawn from the General Treasury," Cornyn said. "This is exactly what members on the other side have asked for."
Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats should be able to accept this language, since it's similar to language Democrats supported Tuesday night in a bill to avoid a drastic cut to Medicare doctor payments.
"OK to vote for Hyde to help doctors, but the not OK when it comes to victims of sexual trafficking?" McConnell asked.
But by Wednesday morning, it was clear that Democrats would oppose it. Planned Parenthood called Cornyn's proposal an "accounting gimmick," and said the group still opposes the GOP's attempt to tie abortion language to the trafficking bill.
Reid seemed to agree with that assessment, and argued that Cornyn's newest proposal would still apply the anti-abortion language to fees and fines.
"Hyde has never, ever in the past applied to private money, non-taxpayer dollars. So that is why my friend's argument is totally illogical," Reid said of McConnell's argument. Reid also tweeted out that it's the fault of Republicans for failing to make a deal on abortion that will allow the bill to move:
We've made many offers to reach a deal on the human trafficking bill, but Republicans are unwilling to compromise on the abortion language.— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) April 15, 2015
Cornyn's latest proposal will be tested in a procedural vote Thursday. Unless a handful of Democrats support it, the trafficking bill will fail to move once again, delaying both that bill and Lynch's nomination.
Democrats have argued for weeks now that Republicans are purposefully slow-walking Lynch's nomination, and some have even implied that Republicans have racist motives for doing so.