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Holly's News From Washington
The House and Senate adjourned this weekend for a long Congressional recess. There will likely be a short lame-duck session after the elections, and then the new Congress will be in the saddle in January.
They left a heap of unfinished business. A big disappointment was the Senate’s failure to pass S.1249, a bill that would designate the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) a Bureau. The measure breezed through the House in July. We’d hoped that the House adoption would be wind under the Senate’s wings. Another help are the Senate’s own 37 cosponsors – a strong, bipartisan group, which includes 5 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Unfortunately, S.1249, which has been a priority for IJM and our supporters around the U.S., wasn’t taken up. There’s still a chance for the measure, though. Senator Blumenthal, author of S.1249, is considering offering it as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This bill has not yet been finalized, and Senate Armed Services Committee staff is incorporating non-controversial amendments. Given its strong bipartisan support and the fact that is virtually cost-free, S.1249 is a good candidate for inclusion.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee leadership have reservations about S.1249 and haven’t yet given the green light to the Senate Armed Services Committee to include the measure in the NDAA. Their concern is that raising the TIP Office to a Bureau prioritizes slavery over other human rights concerns that are handled by the State Department Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
We hope the excellent leadership and staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will give it another look. The Human Rights Bureau does a very good job on a host of human rights issues and we wish them well. But IJM – along with the House of Representatives and 37 Senators – think that the largest, most enduring crime on the face of the earth – slavery – deserves the best possible response from our government. That possibility will be greatly enhanced when the TIP Office is renamed a Bureau, and its Director, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, takes his seat at the grown-ups table.