A human trafficking bill was defeated in the Senate on Tuesday because of an anti-abortion provision that Republicans had attached to it.
The legislation fell short of the 60 procedural votes it needed to advance despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling on the White House to help pass the measure, The Hill
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act had widespread bipartisan support until the Hyde Amendment was included, which blocks federal funding for abortions and other healthcare services, according to The Huffington Post.
Democrats have maintained that they will not back the bill until the abortion language is removed.
But four Democratic senators, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, voted with 51 Republicans for the bill while 43 Democrats voted against it.
"The White House needs to get involved here," McConnell said from the Senate floor before the vote. "So far the White House has barely lifted a finger to help us pass this legislation."
The Kentucky Republican continued, "I think the White House should do this because it’s the right thing to do. But if that’s not enough, they should also consider the consequences of Democrats making a historic mistake.
"If Democrats actually vote to filibuster help for the oppressed victims of modern slavery, the American people will not forget it."
Before the procedural vote, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said, "That vote is going to fail. Republicans have chosen to manufacture a political fight."
The bill would have created a fund to help victims by using penalties charged to traffickers, according to the Post.
"I know there are some Democrats who care deeply about the victims of human trafficking. Unfortunately, not everybody does, otherwise we wouldn't be having this obstruction," said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the bill's author. "I hope they will examine their conscience."
But Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy hit back at Cornyn, saying that the Republican is wrong to suggest Democrats are not supportive of trafficking victims.
"Even though my friend from Texas voted against the Violence Against Women Act, I'm never going to say he's for violence against women," said Leahy.
"We need to turn away from this divisive debate and find a bipartisan approach to serve the needs of survivors. I support the rest of this bill. Take this [anti-abortion] provision out."
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