On Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation to further crack-down on human trafficking by a vote of 99-0. The action ends a weeks-long standoff over abortion funding and assures a vote on Loretta Lynch’s nomination for US Attorney General. With the assistance of at least 5 Republican Senators, Lynch will likely be confirmed by the end of the week.
It is important to note that the trafficking bill was delayed because of Senate Democrat demands to drop a provision blocking new monies being spent to pay for abortions. It is longstanding federal policy that taxpayer funds can’t be spent on abortions. The trafficking bill extended the spirit of this prohibition by blocking the use of money raised by new fines and penalties to pay for abortions.
Senate Democrats wanted this new revenue to be available for abortions. This position is a radical departure from existing federal law, but the public wouldn’t know this as the GOP tried to keep this debate behind closed doors.
On its own, the Senate Democrat position was untenable, as a strong majority of Americans oppose public funding of abortions. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid used the trafficking impasse to argue that Republicans were blocking a vote on Loretta Lynch. President Obama, as has often been the case, followed Reid’s lead with his own rhetorical attack on Senate Republicans.
No Republican outlined the radical nature of the Senate Democrats’ demand. The messaging on the trafficking bill was created, controlled and concluded on Democrat terms. The Republicans quietly negotiated some kind of compromise language where both parties can claim victory.
The Senate Democrats were able to escape an extreme abortion position with a tactical victory.
This short-term victory will be more complete when the Senate Republicans dutifully confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General. Most Republicans will oppose the nomination, of course. Just enough, though, will cite some traditional “deference” presidents are supposed to be accorded for their nominees and allow Lynch to be confirmed.
This deference is understandable at the beginning of a president’s tenure in office, when he is only beginning to pursue a policy agenda. After that president has expanded his own powers beyond anything envisioned by the Constitution, however, this deference is well past its fresh-by date.
Republicans claim that they oppose Obama’s extraconstitutional expansion of executive powers. Rejecting an Attorney General nominee who has endorsed that very expansion would strike a definite blow against that action. Alas, that is not to be.
The main lesson from this sad legislative chapter is that the Senate Republicans will definitely oppose Obama and his policies. Just as long as Harry Reid and the Democrats allow them to.