WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats filibustered legislation on Tuesday to combat human trafficking due to an anti-abortion provision they feared would set a precedent to roll back abortion rights.
The vote was 55 to 43, short of the 60 needed to defeat a filibuster.
Four Democrats voted with Republicans to advance the bill: Sens. Joe Manchin (WV), Bob Casey (PA), Heidi Heitkamp (ND) and Joe Donnelly (IN).
“It’s an important piece of legislation,” Manchin told TPM. “I’ll be voting for the bill either way. I support the Hyde amendment. I’m a pro-life Democrat so I support that position.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) demanded that Republicans eliminate the anti-abortion provision, which Democrats say they only learned about last week. The rest of the bill is overwhelmingly bipartisan.
“Republicans have chosen to manufacture a political fight that has nothing to do with human trafficking. Abortion legislation has no place in human trafficking legislation,” he said.
Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made an impassioned but failed plea for Democrats to support the legislation.
“Democrats filibustering help for terrified children and abused women would represent a new low,” he said. “And the American people would not soon forget it. Nor should they.”
The language would forbid victims of human trafficking to use funds collected from perpetrators for an abortion, representing an expansion of longstanding restrictions on government funding of abortion.
Democrats claim that Republicans snuck the abortion provision in the legislation without telling them, although GOP leaders point out that the legislation was publicly available for more than one month before Democrats raised an objection.