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Request for Consultation

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. I ask unanimous consent that the following letter be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

U.S. SENATE,

Washington, DC, November 16, 2010.

Hon. Mitch McConnell,
Senate Minority Leader,
Washington, DC.

DEAR SENATOR MCCONNELL:

I am requesting that I be consulted before the Senate enters into any unanimous consent agreements or time limitations regarding S. 2925, Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010.

I support the goals of this legislation and believe slavery, in any form, is morally reprehensible. Sex trafficking is a global epidemic, and we should endeavor to eliminate this industry, especially due to its effects on minors who are victims of this practice. However, I believe we can and must do so in a fiscally responsible manner that upholds the Constitution. My concerns are included in, but not limited to, those outlined in this letter.

While the Judiciary Committee considered and amended this bill in its Executive Business Meeting, making some positive changes, I still have several concerns with the committee-reported language. First, although the new grant program created by this legislation will be inserted into existing trafficking law, the bill extends the current funding authorization period. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) established the current law regarding trafficking, but its funding authorizations expire in 2011. However, in combining this bill's new grant program with existing TVPRA grants, it also extends the grant's authorization through 2014. Thus, the bill authorizes new spending of $15 million per year from 2012-2014, totaling $45 million that is not offset by reductions in real spending elsewhere in the federal government.

It is irresponsible for Congress to jeopardize the future standard of living of our children by borrowing from future generations. The U.S. national debt is now over $13 trillion. That means over $43,000 in debt for each man, woman and child in the United States. A year ago, the national debt was $10.2 trillion. Despite pledges to control spending, Washington added $4.6 billion to the national debt every single day last year--that is $3.2 million every single minute.

Second, the Sex Trafficking Block Grants in S. 2925 go beyond the responsibility of the federal government by allowing grantees to use grant money for activities that are rightly the responsibility of individual states. The grants may be used to provide clothing, daily necessities, counseling and legal services to trafficking victims. They may also be used to provide training for state and local law enforcement officers and social service providers. Finally, the grants may be used to fund salaries for state and local law enforcement officers and prosecutors, as well as investigation expenses for minor sex trafficking cases prosecuted by the state. All of these expenses can and should be provided by the states, not the federal government.

I agree the problem of sex trafficking, particularly when the victims are children, is an important issue both state and federal governments should address. As ranking member of the Human Rights and the Law Subcommittee, I have seen the effects of the sex trade industry both internationally and domestically. As it pertains to domestic child sex trafficking victims, however, I believe the federal government should not be the primary provider of services for these victims.

Most cases involving child sex trafficking are prosecuted at the state level, while the federal government typically only joins cases involving large sex trafficking rings that often include other federal criminal activity. As a result, I have concerns that this legislation places too great of a burden on the federal government to provide funding for trafficking victims' services. In addition, the bill allows grant funds to be used in many ways beyond basic services that I believe both detract from the goal of assisting victims and duplicates funding already provided by other federal grant programs.

Third, only 50% of the grant funds are required to go toward actual victims' services. The other 50% can be used for salaries for state law enforcement officers and prosecutors, as well as state trial and investigation expenses. While I do not support the federal funding of food, clothing and other daily necessities for these victims, by refusing to require a higher percentage of the grant to go toward these types of direct victims' services, the bill does not fulfill its goal.

Finally, while I was encouraged by some of the compromise language that was included in the bill the Judiciary Committee ultimately passed, such as inserting the bill's grant program into an existing federal program to avoid some of the overlap and direct duplication it initially created, there remain several broad Justice Department grant programs that can be used for the purposes outlined in this bill's grant program. All of the Edward Byrne Grant programs, including the Discretionary Grants or earmarks, the Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) grants and multiple juvenile justice grants offered through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) contain broad language that would allow these grants to be used for the purposes outlined in S. 2925.

While there is no question that the sex trafficking industry has lifelong, horrific effects on its victims, particularly minors, both federal and state governments bear the burden of addressing this issue. It is the states who should provide funding for the permissible purposes under this bill's grant program, as it is state and local agencies which have the responsibility to carry out these services. Furthermore, the federal government already provides funding to address trafficking issues, and grant programs are available to state and local governments that can be used to help sex trafficking victims. Congress should, like many American individuals and companies do with their own resources, evaluate current programs, determine any needs that may exist and prioritize those needs for funding by cutting from the federal budget programs fraught with waste, fraud, abuse and duplication.

Sincerely,

Tom A. Coburn, M.D.,
U.S. Senator.


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