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Klobuchar aide knew of provision that stalled trafficking bill

Amy Klobuchar U S Senate candidate Minnesota Dave Wallis / The Forum

An aide to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar knew about a controversial provision, but did not tell her boss, in a now-stalled bill fighting human trafficking that nearly has brought Senate work to a halt.

Wednesday's revelation was about a measure that put the brakes on what had been expected to be easy-to-pass legislation providing human trafficking victims help. Democrats have claimed for some time that they did not know Republicans inserted abortion ban language into the trafficking bill.

After the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill, with votes from Minnesota Democrats Klobuchar and Al Franken, Democratic senators discovered that Republicans had included the abortion provision in the trafficking bill. Democratic senators said they and their aides had not seen the abortion portion.

But Wednesday Klobuchar spokeswoman Julia Krahe told Forum News Service in a written statement that an aide she did not identify had seen the controversial language.

"A staff member who reviewed the reintroduced bill had seen the Hyde (abortion) provision in the bill but did not inform the senator," Krahe said in an email. "The senator was not aware that the provision was included until last Monday."

Krahe added: “The senator takes responsibility for the work of her office and missing the provision and she is focused on moving forward to find a way to fix the bill and protect victims of trafficking."

Klobuchar agrees with U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., that the trafficking issue is too important to be tied up in the abortion fight, Krahe said.

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest criticized Republicans’ insistence on anti-abortion language in the larger bill by praising Paulsen, who lives in Eden Prairie.

“The Republican sponsor of this legislation, a gentleman named Erik Paulsen from the great state of Minnesota -- when asked about the specific provision in the Senate bill that ... many Democrats find objectionable, said, ‘There is no reason it should be included in these bills.’" Earnest said. "This is the Republican congressman who sponsored the House version of bill."

The trafficking bill battle has deadlocked the Senate for more than a week, which delayed a vote on President Obama's attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch, as well as the trafficking bill.

Klobuchar took to microphone on the Senate floor for more than two hours Wednesday, urging action on the trafficking bill and reading from a book on international sex trafficking.

She read from “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” and expounded on the need for the United States to take action.

“We just need to get these bills done,” the Democrat said as she started her talk.

“We have to get back to what really matters here,” Klobuchar said 40-minutes in.

“What we are trying to get done today is do something real,” Klobuchar said, after she had spoken for about 80 minutes.

Rachel Stassen-Berger of the St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this story. The Pioneer Press is a media partner of Forum News Service.

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