White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest declined to say if President Obama would veto legislation designed to stop human trafficking Monday, instead claiming that Republicans in the Senate do not have the votes to pass the bill.
"Right now it doesn't have the votes to pass the Senate," Earnest said in response to a question about whether or not Obama would veto the anti-human trafficking bill as it is currently written.
The bill in question, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, would, among other things, create a new program funded by fines paid by perpetrators of human trafficking. The new program would then take those fines and give the money to private groups that help victims of sex trafficking.
When the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously earlier this year, it also contained a provision that barred any proceeds from the fund to be spent on abortions. Similar language has been included in multiple other federal programs for decades.
But Democrats objected to the language preventing taxpayer funded abortions last week, and voted to filibuster the bill until the anti-abortion language was taken out.
Earnest declined to explain why Democrats flip-flopped on the anti-abortion provision Monday, instead blaming Republicans for the delay.
"You know over the course of last month, we spent a lot of time talking about the efforts of congressional Republicans to pass funding for the Department of Homeland Security," Earnest said. "And I observed at the time that it was difficult to think of a more commonsense measure that should be able to earn bipartisan support in the United States Congress than funding for the Department of Homeland Security."
"Well sure enough a month later I think I found a more commonsense measure that Democrats and Republicans should be able to get together and support and that is an effort to concentrate federal resources to stop child sex trafficking," Earnest continued. "But you got to hand it to Republicans. They have taken a measure that is as commonsense as that and turned it into a partisan controversy. That is not a reflection of a flaw in the bill. It's a reflection of inept leadership. That surely Democrats and Republicans should, in regular order, be able to work together to advance legislation that would allow us to concentrate our efforts to focus on and crack down on individuals who seek to traffic children. But yet Mitch McConnell and Republicans in Congress have succeeded in turing this into a partisan controversy."
The White House and the Democrats appear to be betting on the fact that since Republicans caved on tying DHS funding to Obama's amnesty program, they will also now cave on tying anti-human trafficking programs to anti-abortion policies. Earnest specifically cited Boehner and McConnell's stated desire to make it seem like Congress was working as a reason why they would eventually cave again.
"And again, I also noted last month, that Speaker Boenher and Leader McConnell got together the day after the election and the wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, the headline of the op-ed was, "Now We Can Get Congress Going," Earnest said. "Well hopefully Leader McConnell can get Congress going on passing a piece of legislation that would stop child sex trafficking."