Leahy-Authored Bill To Fight Human Trafficking Moves To Senate Floor With Bipartisan Committee Vote

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011) – The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved bipartisan legislation to reauthorize historic legislation which has enhanced the government’s efforts to combat human trafficking in the United States and abroad.  The bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) is authored by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and received bipartisan support during the Committee’s vote Thursday.

“Human trafficking is abhorrent. It is a modern-day form of slavery in which victims are forced into labor or sexual exploitation. Traffickers prey on the most vulnerable members of society,” said Leahy.  “No country is immune. It happens even here. The United States has made great strides in the fight against human trafficking through our landmark, bipartisan legislation, and we should act quickly to see it reauthorized.”

The bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act will authorize the programs under TVPRA until 2015, and improve cooperation among federal agencies that provide victim services.  The legislation will also give law enforcement additional tools and resources to investigate human trafficking crimes, and further the victim-centered approach that has been crucial to combating human trafficking.  The bill also reduces by one-third the funding levels included in the last authorization of the law, which was passed by Congress unanimously in 2008.  The cut in authorization levels will result in a cost-savings of more than $60 million.

“The original version of the bill as introduced had already included cuts to current authorization levels in deference to our difficult fiscal situation,” Leahy said.  “The substitute contains much greater cuts, resulting in authorization levels that are one-third lower than current authorizations.   In lean budget times, our proposal also focuses federal authorizations on the programs that have been most successful under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.”

The TVPRA seeks to cut off human trafficking at its roots by supporting international efforts to address the sources of trafficking.  During the Committee’s debate on the bill, a substitute amendment was adopted to address several requests made by the Committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other Republican members of the Committee.  The substitute amendment also includes a number of oversight and reporting measures.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act was first introduced in 2000 by the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and former Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan), and signed into law that year by President Clinton.  The landmark bill was reauthorized three times during the Bush administration, each time with unanimous support in Congress. 

The legislation has received support from a number of religious, human rights and civil rights organizations.  The bill is cosponsored in the Senate by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).

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