Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Another Casualty of the Culture Wars

It's hard to find anyone who disagrees with the notion that modern day slavery or "human trafficking" is an awful practice, even on Capitol Hill, where members disagree about pretty much everything. That's why a law to help combat the practice has been such a novelty over the last decade -- every time it comes up for re-authorization, it sails through Congress with unanimous backing.

Not this year. In a piece I wrote for last week's CQ Weekly magazine, I look at how the bipartisan consensus that has supported the bill's passage in the past crumbled last fall thanks to a dust-up between Obama administration officials at the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For five years, the Bishops Conference had overseen a grant program to assist trafficking victims in the United States. HHS decided not to renew the grant in late September because the group refused to reimburse subcontractors for reproductive health services that conflicted with the Catholic faith -- i.e. birth control and abortion.

In the midst of all the election year politicking and posturing, the talk of wars on women and religion, it doesn't take much more than the mention of the a-word to get politicians twisted in knots. Suffice to say, House Republicans are now completely at odds with Senate Democrats, and even some Senate Republicans, over how to proceed on the bill. That does not bode well for its passage given all the other legislative issues competing for floor time.

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