tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN March 21, 2018 10:59am-1:00pm EDT
what's the difference between libya and the united states? libya is a multiethnic country, 140 different people. it's a failed state. it's disintegrative why? because it doesn't have that overarching strong living identity comes from natal the country together with colonna construction. but we do. this is what makes us special. >> q&a sunday night at eight eastern on c-span. >> live picture of a snowy u.s. capitol with government offices and schools in the area closed because of the third, actually the fourth nor easter in four weeks. fso hitting the area. the senate is about to come in to finish work on an online sex trafficking prosecution bill. vote expected to get underway in the 4:00 hour. doug jones of alabama also would be giving his maiden speech. that is set for 1 p.m. eastern.
the chaplain: let us pray. immortal, invisible, god only wise, we praise you that those who trust in you will not lack any good things. we thank you that you are the source of our strength and the strength of our lives. guide our lawmakers in all their undertakings. stay close to them and infuse them with your spirit of wisdom. may they strive for your approval instead of seeking the approbation of humanity. when our senators face troubles,
rescue them from each one, enabling them to tell of your excellent greatness. give them the grace to receive things as they are, while resolving by your grace to make them what they ought to be. we pray in your strong name. we pray for the victims and families of the great mills school shooting. we pray in your strong name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty
and justice for all. mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i'd like this morning to give an update for my colleagues given the challenges associated with the weather and also as we move toward a conclusion of the omnibus. i've spoken to the democratic leader. it's my expectation we'll move forward with votes today hoping to move them forward on the sex trafficking bill, moving them up in the day, hope to accommodate
mr. portman: mr. president. the presiding officer: -l the senator from ohio. mr. portman: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to enter into a colloquy with some of my colleagues. the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. portman: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without
objection. under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to the consideration of h.r. 1865, which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 339, h.r. 1865, an act to amend the communications act of 1934, and so forth and for other purposes. mr. portman: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: mr. president, i'd like to ask unanimous consent to enter into a colloquy on that legislation with some of my leadership colleagues here on this issue. first senator john thune, chair of the commerce committee, very involved in this issue. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: senator richard blumenthal as well, who is the coauthor of the legislation and cochair of the trafficking caucus. senator clare mccaskill. ranking member of the permanent subcommittee on sessions and
senator heidi heitkamp, one of the original sponsors of this legislation. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: i'm pleased to be joined by my colleagues this morning here in this chamber as we begin the process of debating the amendments that are being offered and moving toward a final vote on this important legislation to deal with sex trafficking, which unbelievably in this century in this country is actually increasing. all the experts say it's increasing because of the presence of these organizations online that are using the ruthless efficiency of the internet to sell women and children. it's fitting that this group is bipartisan because this process has been bipartisan, coming up with this legislation all along. it's really the culmination of two years worth of work. a lot of great work, investigation being done by the permanent subcommittee on investigation, also good work done by the commerce committee through regular order. we would not be on the verge of sending this bill to the president's desk without the hard work of every senator who
will be on the floor this morning. i'd like to recognize a sixth member of our group who cannot be here but whose passion about this issue means that although his presence is not here, it is felt. and that's senator john mccain. both senator mccain and his wife cindy mccain have taken on this issue of human trafficking through the mccain institute and senator mccain, through our work on the permanent subcommittee on investigations and also in helping us with this legislation. we wish they could be here for the final vote on this bill because i know john mccain is watching right now and wishing he could be here with us. and we look forward to his return here to this chamber. but i want to thank them on behalf of all of us for their hard work on this issue over the years. you'll hear from my colleagues today, mr. president, on a number of things we've done in this congress in this process of putting together the right legislative fix to be able to take away an immune itty unbelievably that some of these
evil websites have under federal law to be able to sell people online. you'll hear about the 18-month investigation into online trafficking and into backpage.com. you'll hear about stories of online sex trafficking and some of the injustice experienced by some of the victims and survivors who have come to us back home in our states and come here to testify bravely here in the united states congress. you'll hear about some of the calls from the courts around the country for us to pass legislation to fix this problem. the prosecutors, the u.s. attorneys, the people back home who are eager to prosecute on these cases but can't because of a federal law. you'll hear about the work of the commerce committee, as i said earlier, helping us come up with a commonsense targeted bill through the regular order to be sure we would have not just the best legislative product but we would have buy-in from members on both sides of the aisle. i want to commend senator john thune for doing that. he chairs the commerce committee which held a hearing on this legislation, sesta, last september and was reported out
of committee after making a few changes to the legislation which clarified the intent in a be positive way. with that, mr. president, i'd like to yield to my colleague, john thune. mr. thune: mr. president, i too want to recognize and say to senator portman, who's been a leading voice in the senate in the fight against human trafficking what a great job he has done getting us to this point. this was a, a long, multimonth, as he said, two-year effort. senator portman has been absolutely relentless in pushing and driving this process forward, and i commend him for his important work which will culminate today, i certainly hope, with a big bipartisan vote in support of the legislation in front of us. i also want to commend bipartisan group of senators that worked hard to draft the stop enabling sex traffickers act which includes senator tpwhraoupl that you -- tkpwhraot you -- senator blumenthal, senator
heitkamp and senator portman and senator mccain who has been an advocate for addressing this issue for so many years and wish he could be here to participate and to be able to vote for its passage. but we know that his work over the years has played an incredibly important role in getting us to where we are today. this group also helped lead the effort to conduct important investigatory oversight that has helped us to get to the point where we are today. last year as senator portman pointed out i chaired a commerce committee hearing on his bill where we heard testimony from experts on both sides of the issue. we listened carefully to what our witnesses had to say, and after the hearing we worked together to make some targeted change to the legislation. and the bill that ultimately advanced from our committee enjoyed, as senator portman pointed out, solid support from the internet industry. it passed the senate commerce committee unanimously. the bill is strongly supported by members of both parties.
we racked up lots of bipartisan support, 68 out of 100 senators now cosponsors of this bill. the bill is supported by the white house, and so we know that as soon as it leaves the senate it will land on the president's desk where it will be signed into law. supported by law enforcement organizations, organizations that fight sex trafficking and by faith-based organizations. at our commerce committee hearing, mr. president, we also heard some powerful, powerful testimony from yvonne am bring to a -- yvonne ambrose whose daughter was sex trafficked before she was murdered. she was a bright loving girl who dreamed of becoming a doctor in the air force. instead she was raped and murdered by a man twice her age who sought her for sex after seeing her advertised on an internet site. ms. ambrose's powerful testimony helped the members of our committee understand the terrible pain that victims of
sex trafficking and their families are exposed to. and i'm very thankful to her for sharing desiree's story. this bill has already cleared the house of representatives, mr. president, by an overwhelming margin, and i encourage my colleagues here in the senate to reject any attempts to slow this bill down with amendments. this has been very carefully and thoroughly vetted through the many processes that senator portman described. we need to get this bill over the finish line, on the president's desk, and signed into law, because there are thousands of children out there who are waiting for our help. so, again, i commend senator portman and his colleagues here in the senate who have worked tirelessly on this. and i hope we have a big outcome today and that we do something really meaningful to address a scourge that this country needs to get rid of. mr. president, i would yield back to the senator from ohio. and i know there are others here who have joined us who i think
intend to participate in our discussion. mr. portman: again, i thank my colleague from south dakota who has been at the forefront here and getting it through the commerce committee with a unanimously vote frankly was exceeding expectations that many on the outside had. they thought this might be a time for those who are against the legislation to stop the bill, but instead we were able through testimony to show that this is a commonsense, targeted approach that will make a huge difference in the lives of the people we represent without affecting the freedom of the internet. and that's the right bam -- balance that senator thune helped us to get to. senator blumenthal is here and was a former state prosecutor and has a special background in prosecuting these cases and, therefore, joins me in ensuring that this legislation allowed for our state prosecutors, the local prosecutors who are going to take many of these cases be able to sue these websites
online using the current shield. after this legislation, these prosecutors will be able to successfully prosecute these cases. with that, i yield to senator blumenthal. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i am proud to be here as a former associate attorney general and state prosecutor. i have been involved in law enforcement for most of my career, and i'm proud to stand here now in this chamber following the chairman of the commerce committee whose dedication to this cause has brought us to the finishline, and my -- finish line, and my colleague, senator portman, whose leadership on this bill is invaluable. i want to second a number of points that have been made by senator portman and senator
thune, most especially about the collaborative effort involved in this bill, bipartisan championing of a cause whose time has come, and particularly to our colleague john mccain and his wife cindy mccain, whose energy and spirit, courage and strength have really been ain't separation to -- an inspiration to all of us, i also want to thank senators heitkamp, whitehouse, and cornyn, because their contribution has been enormous as well. there is a face to human trafficking in this country. here is one of the faces. desiree robinson, whose story you just heard from senator thune, is one such face.
her voice is still -- her voice could not be heard directly, but her mother, yvonne ambrose, came to our committee and talked about her beautiful daughter whose life was lost as a result of sex trafficking. she was killed after she was raped and after she was sold. and her story alone helped us achieve unanimous approval in the commerce committee for this bill, and i hope it will lead us also to an overwhelming vote today on the bill before us. i hope as well it will lead us to defeat amendments that would,
in effect, kill this bill, amendments that may be well intentioned but in fact have an effect contrary to their stated purpose. this bill is completely bipartisan from beginning to end. it is the result of tireless work of advocates, sex trafficking survivors and a bipartisan coalition of sponsors. its companion legislation passed in the house 388-25. it is the product of stakeholder consensus. it has the support of every major human trafficking organization, every major law enforcement group, every part of
the tech community, if not unanimous, at least many of its leaders. and this bill essentially would clarify section 230 of the communications decency act that was never intended to give websites a free pass to aid and abet sex trafficking. it was never intend it had to i'm ewe niez -- immunize completely those websites so they could knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. those words are in the bill, knowingly facilitate. and the purpose of our measure is very simply to give those survivors their day in court right now -- right now the courtroom doors are barred to them as a recent court of appeals opinion remarked
outrageously so, and it would also open avenues of prosecution to law enforcement where they are currently roadblocked. my experience combating sex trafficking at the state level led me to colaunch and cochair the senate caucus to end human trafficking with senator portman seeking to find solutions to this problem. i was told as a state prosecutor that i could not pursue action against craig's list or other sites nearly a decade ago because of that section and the interpretation of it. so, clearly, the websites facilitating knowingly, encouraging, and profiting from sex trafficking must face repercussions in the courtroom.
for law enforcement to succeed in combating sex trafficking, there has to be consequences. the national center for missing and exploited children reported an 840% increase in suspected child sex trafficking from 2010 to 2015 alone, and that spike, it found, quote, directly correlated to the increase use of the internet to sell children for sex. those numbers fail to tell the full story. in fact, this picture is worth a thousand words. this picture of desiree shows her as a young girl smiling. in fact, her mom told us her
smile could light up a room. she was a successful student who dreamed of becoming a physician in the air force. when she was in high school, a series of men reached out to her on social media. they pressured and manipulated her into selling her for sex and then advertise her on backpage.com. her mom, yvonne, told us what happened next. on december 23, 2016, a 32-year-old man by the name of antonio rozalos was looking through backpage.com for a person to have sex with. he knew backpage.com was a site to go to find young underaged girls to have sex with.
he came across my daughter in the posting, new girl in town looking to have fun. desiree was driven to antonio's residence by the pimple, -- by the pimp to have sex with a man twice her age. this was the last day of my daughter's life. on december 23, 2016, my daughter, was the last day on earth. she was beaten and strangled all because she said no. she screamed for help and there was no one around to help her. yvonne ambrose had the courage to come testify before us, and i
repeated this -- part of her testimony not because it is enonlying or pleasant, but it is the hard, ugly truth about sex trafficking. it is the reason that we must pass this measure, and it is also the reason why we need to defeat the amendments that would send this measure back to the house and it's possible demise. every one of the groups that i mentioned earlier, including desiree's lawyer, have urged us to defeat these amendments. and i want to read just one or two sentences from the lawyer that i received today from -- a letter that i received today from desiree's lawyer about the
so-called moderation amendment. quote, at first glance it appears that the moderation amendment is disguising itself as a good samaritan amendment, however, in a nutshell, it's effect is a really bad faith samaritan immunity. end of quote. this measure is narrowly tailored. it would ensure that state and local law enforcement can join the fight against these criminal websites. it provides survivors a right of action that would be not only a source of relief for them but also a means of remedy. and the amendment, the good
samaritan amendment, unfortunately, perhaps unintentionally, would simply protect the websites. now, the people who complain and take action certainly deserve protection. it's in the current law. one of the reasons that we want to defeat this amendment is that it would probably have unintended consequences in protecting websites that identify sex trafficking ads and then leave them up in order to continue profiting from them. but the letter from desiree robinson's estate, gina abonie, objecting to this amendment i think is a powerful reminder that we need to stick to what we have and what we know will work.
i ask that letter be includedded as part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: finally, there is a funding amendment that has been offered as well, while well intentioned, it would derail this legislation. it would provide money to attorney general sessions to investigate an prosecute websites that criminally facilitate human trafficking. this amendment too is opposed by law enforcement agencies. yesterday i put their letters into the record. every major law enforcement representative agency opposes it because, and i'm quoting, one of those letters, the funding amendment is a poison pill that is dead on arrival if sent back to the house. so let me conclude sem my by saying -- simply by saying, i believe this measure accomplishes some powerfully
important purposes. it would not criminalize so-called harm reduction communication information that's designed to ensure that women and men wrapped up in commercial sex trade can avoid violence, prevent h.i.v., and access community and support services. h.r. 1865 was not designed to target websites that spread harm reduction information, and the language of the bill makes that clear. the purpose of this bill is much more narrowly focused and a website user or operator must intend to facilitate prosecution if their goal is to save lives by lifesaving information, they have not violated the law, and,
finally, this legislation, i want to make absolutely clear, is not intended to prejudice the rights of anyone who has been victimized by a crime online other than sex trafficking. for example, i disagree with the courts that held that the communication decency act immunizes online firearm sales like arms list for facilitating legal gun sale. while this legislation does not address those limghtses, no one believes that congress believes they were rightly decided. again, my thanks to all of my colleagues and most especially to senator portman for his hard work, his leadership, and his courage in tackling this tough problem which should bring all of us together.
making sesta the law of the land will help save lives. it will spare others the fate of desirae robinson. it will make sure that more parents see justice and that survivors have their day in court and law enforcement the right to pursue these wrongdoers. thank you, mr. president, and i yield back. mr. portman: i thank my colleague for his comments and more importantly for his leadership on this all the way through the process of drafting the legislation. i am now going to yield to one of my other colleagues. it looks like it's senator heitkamp who will be the next to speak. she is from north dakota, not south dakota, as we talked about earlier with senator thune, and has a similar passion for this issue. she has been involved in this issue for many years and is also on the committee where we did the p.s.i. work we talked about
earlier. i appreciate her being one of our six original cosponsors, helping us to draft this targeted, focused legislation that deals directly with the problem we have seen around the country that was discussed by senator blumenthal. with that, i'd like to yield to my colleague, senator heitkamp. the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. ms. heitkamp: i am so proud to stand here with my five colleagues, but i also have to acknowledge the one that's not here, and that's senator john mccain who has been an absolute champion, along with his wife, on attacking this problem. five years ago when i met cindy mccain, one of the first words out of her mouth was what can we do about this? working within the homeland security committee where so much of this work got done both in the homeland security committee but also in the permanent subcommittee on investigations, i can't say enough about the commitment of that committee but importantly the commitment of the leadership of the permanent
subcommittee on investigations, both senator portman and senator mccaskill who worked in tandem, who engaged their very, very capable staff, who did the investigation that led to the exposure of the issues that led to a commitment, a bipartisan commitment to develop and pass this bill. but i do want to say that i know that john and cindy are with us today in spirit, that i know cindy's probably watching because she is very, very excited that finally we're going to get this done, and this is such an important tool, this is such an important piece of stopping human trafficking, which has been her lifelong objective and passion. and so today we stand not just with the colleagues that are here on the floor but also with our great friend, senator john mccain, and his beautiful and active and wonderful wife, cindy mccain. so i want to kind of say the
other reason why i'm really proud is this is why i came to the united states senate, to work across the aisle to address major issues and challenges, to make a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable human beings in our country. we're here today on the cusp of passing a bill that will provide victims a real opportunity to seek justice and recover damages from websites who profited on their pain of being sold for sex, while also providing new tools to prosecutors, including my former colleagues, the state attorneys general, to go after these sites and after their owners. again, i want to thank senator portman and senator blumenthal for their tireless work in trying to fashion the right mix of understanding of the importance of the communications decency act to the development of this tool we call the internet, but also to make sure that this is not used as a tool for incredibly bad actors who would prey on the most
vulnerable among us. and so driving this bill and forging a compromise was not easy. this was not easy. no one should think that this came together easily or that we didn't have many moments where we did our own soul searching, those of us who are committed to the first amendment and those of us who are committed to free access of means to express our opinions and do our business. so what i will tell you is this is a big thing. this isn't a little thing. this is a big thing, not only because we are doing it in a bipartisan way but that we are speaking on behalf of the most vulnerable human beings in this country. the sale of human beings for sex on the internet, i can't imagine a more heinous act, and it's happening in all of our communities. it's happening in our states each and every day. when i began my journey to the united states senate, i engaged and started visiting with my old
friends in north dakota law enforcement. as i have said many times here, i am a former attorney general from the great state of north dakota and have great friends in law enforcement, and their message was simple. they were seeing a lot more drugs. obviously, north dakota was experiencing an oil boom and that was creating some social upheaval. additional crime, additional concern about crime. but they then told me something i didn't expect. we're seeing this incredible rate and increase in prostitution, and i thought about that and i thought well, what does that mean and how do we investigate it, and so many people would argue that this is a victimless crime and not a priority. and we started looking behind this. my colleagues in law enforcement in north dakota started doing things, and they did something that peace officers all across the country do. they sat down with the women they were arresting and they started listening to their stories, and the stories were heart breaking. the stories of being preyed on
as young girls, either in their home or as they were running away. the stories of how they got in the life. and many, many of my colleagues in law enforcement began to say these women are not criminals. they are victims. and we began to look at what has led to this huge explosion, and we started examining all the websites, all the places where with the tweak of a word or with the opportunity to be anonymous anonymous -- in the old days, you would have to stand out perhaps on a street corner, but now you can be anonymous, and that it gave those perpetrators, those evil human beings yet another avenue. and that's when we started looking at backpage.com and other sites like it that sell human beings for sex, and that occurs in every corner of our
country, in the small and big states, and in the small and big counties, and in oil counties and out east in farming communities. and so no one should believe that we are immune or somehow limited because of it's going to happen here but not there. one thing that we have learned is that it is happening everywhere. and today, today we are saying no more. the stop enabling sex trafficking act would crack down on these horrific crimes online and provide justice for victims, and today it is going to pass the senate with broad bipartisan support and head to the president's desk to be signed into law. in many instances, websites help traffickers skirt law enforcement through online advertising and continue to do without penalty by claiming their first amendment rights. i remember when we in the permanent subcommittee on investigations subpoenaed and had a chance to question the
witnesses in backpage.com, and they started talking about their first amendment rights. i pointed out to them that nothing that this body can do can affect someone's first amendment rights. they were not alleging or saying they were protected by the first amendment. they knew that wouldn't fly. they say -- said they were protected by the terms of the communications decency act. now, like senator blumenthal, i never believed that the communications decency act protected them from prosecution or protected them from civil penalty if they were complicit and in fact abetted these crimes. i never believed that, but there were judges in america who did. and we met and saw a lot of those judges and read a lot of those opinions and said we cannot let a law of the united states congress, a law on the books in our country allow perpetrators who sell children for sex to be absolutely -- to
absolutely avoid any civil or criminal penalty. we cannot allow that to happen. not a law of this country. we don't have the ability to restrict or modify the first amendment in this body, but we do have the ability to amend a law that is being used inappropriately to protect the most hideous criminals in america. so no law, no law should put anyone goff liability if they are actively involved and complicit in selling children for sex. so as we stand here today, we know that we are doing something that we hope would half more often in the united states senate. we're standing for those victims, those parents, those children, those women who are still in the struggle of human trafficking, those children who
are still in the struggle of human trafficking. we are standing with them today to say no more. and people who will illegally profit from selling children for sex are going to be held accountable, so the message needs to go from this body, it needs to go from the signature of this bill to the fact that that protection that you have been alleging inappropriately of hiding behind the communication decency act ends, and it ends with the passage of this bill. i couldn't be prouder of the work that my colleagues, senator mccaskill and senator portman, did on the permanent subcommittee. you expose the facts that led to the argument that led to the passage of this bill, and i am proud to stand with you, i am proud to work to make sure that this bill is appropriately implemented, and i look forward to the first prosecution of someone who sells children for
sex on the internet by profiting from the webpage that they create. with that, again, senator portman, thank you so much for your excellent work. senator mccaskill, thank you for your excellent work. i proudly stand with you today and know that we are making a difference today. today the united states senate will make a difference in the most vulnerable human beings in our country. thank you. i yield the floor. mr. portman: i thank my colleague for her expertise and experience she brought to this effort. as she said in the permanent subcommittee on investigations, we spent 18 months digging deep, trying to figure out why this was happening, why you had an increase in trafficking in this country, in this century, and increasingly we were told this is because of the internet moving from the street corner to the smart phone, trafficking survivors and victims told us this story, but so did the
experts. senator heitkamp jumped in and the leadership of that subcommittee included senator mccaskill. she is no longer the ranking member. she has gone on to bigger things, to be ranking member of the full committee, but during this investigation of this 18 months, she was the ranking democrat on our subcommittee. i appreciated working with her there. she is a former prosecutor. she knows how to dig deep for this information. she had a good staff. she also was very helpful to us in helping to enforce the subpoenas. i'll let her tell the story, but this is really incredible. we knew this one website, backpage.com, was engaged in this effort because we heard about it all over the country. my home state of ohio, women, girls would say they were trafficked on backpage. if i talked to a dozen victims or survivors, ten would say backpage. and the national group said 75%
on backpage. that's the national center for missing and exploited children number. another group said no, it's 80%. in other words, we knew this was happening, but we couldn't get the information because although we subpoenaed documents and subpoenaed their testimony, they refused to show up and they refused to give us documents. so we had to go through an extraordinary process. again, i will let senator mccaskill talk about it, but for the first time in 21 years, this senate did something that was critical to our investigation. i just again want to thank her for her hard work. i'd like to yield time to her to talk about that. ms. mccaskill: thank you, mr. president. i want to thank my colleagues. mrs. mccaskill: we spent a lot of time on the floor thanking each other, which is a good thing. unfortunately too often we go back to tribal warfare after we thank each other, but this is an example of where we have worked together in a bipartisan way. i think those thanks are justified, particularly in this case when there has been an honest and true bipartisan effort to get at a really serious problem in this country. it was a pleasure to work with
my colleague, senator portman, as we did this investigation. so how do i come to this place? well, i come to this place as somebody who spent a significant part of my career in the courtroom prosecuting sex crimes. i think i can say with confidence that i have prosecuted more sex crimes than any other member of the united states senate. i can't speak for the house because i'm not familiar with the backgrounds of all the house members, but i spent years as an assistant prosecutor and part of that time i was the only woman in the office, and for some reason they thought that was a good reason to have me have expertise in the area of sex crimes, which i was happy to take on the responsibility of handling a lot of those cases as a young assistant prosecutor, going into the courtroom and arguing cases to juries, holding the hands of victims, crying with their families and trying to find that special spot that's called justice in a system that sometimes is stacked against the
victims of these kinds of crimes. i went on to be the elected prosecutor in kansas city and tried to continue our strong stand against all forms of sex crimes, including people who were being -- profits that were being made off people who were selling sex. i do think it's important to remember that when we began this investigation in the senate, we were dealing with someone who didn't want to cooperate. and what we learned through the investigation was that this law as it exists now was their protector. they were being protected for their bad acts by an outdated law that was being twisted and distorted to allow them to make billions of dollars of profit.
and, frankly, millions upon millions upon millions of dollars of profit off trafficking young women for sex. so prosecution of cases is not driven by headlines. it's not driven by press conferences. it's not driven by photo ops. prosecution of case is driven by evidence, and you only get evidence after a thorough and complete investigation. there has to be in depth. can you imagine -- senator portman, i know you will relate to this. can you imagine if when backpage said we don't want to talk to you, we said, okay, that's fine. when backpage said we refuse to be interviewed, we just said okay, no problem. we don't have any evidence of wrongdoing. let's just go on our way. instead when we were confronted
with their stubborn unwillingness to participate in a united states senate investigation, we did what was necessary to hold them accountable. and it involved the cooperation of the entire senate. once they rebuffed our subpoenas and refused to show up and once they said, no, we don't have to give you anything because of the current law as it relates to section 230, we said, no, that's not true. and we got the entire united states senate to back us up. every single member. now i don't know how unusual it is in this day and age to have zero on one side of the ledger in the united states senate. but i don't know about you, senator portman, but i've seen it very few times. there's usually one or two that hang out there for some reason or another, no matter how
uncontroversial a piece of legislation is. but in this instance we got everybody. everybody who voted said yes, let's take backpage to court and assert our ability under the constitution to investigate, and the law to investigate. and so we took them all the way to the supreme court, and we won that case. and the, what happened after that is really important for people to understand because there were lots of folks around the country that were trying to get at backpage's conduct, but they are able to use this law to protect themselves. and so there's two things we did that were very important for prosecutors and to our investigation. the first thing we did was we sent the whole file over to the department of justice for referral. so it sits there now, all of the information we have about backpage at the department of justice. and i'm hopeful that they are using that information and all the documentation we were able to obtain to pursue bad acts and
criminal violations by backpage. the other thing we did with the vote of the senate and the cooperation of the senate is we opened up our files to any prosecutor attorney general in the country. and i would certainly call on the attorneys general of this country and call on the local prosecutors in this country to access these documents that are available to them to use in investigations they have of people who might be actually using -- have used backpage to traffic young women and sometimes children. so now why is this law so important, if i'm looking at this through a prosecutor's lens? now all the prosecutors in the country can go after anyone who knowingly facilitates sex
trafficking online. now i'm not saying accidentally, and i'm not saying that it slipped through and they didn't know it. i'm talking about knowingly facilitate, which is what backpage was doing, we learned once we got all their documents. they were knowingly facilitating sex trafficking on their web page the now not only can individuals walk in the courthouse and get a moment of justice through civil action, attorneys general can now take civil action even in federal court against these websites. and most importantly, where most crime is prosecuted in this country, they can go after these folks. and i don't think most americans realize -- i know a lot of missourians don't realize that upwards of 90% of the crime that's prosecuted in this country is done by local prosecutors. f.b.i. agents don't answer 911 calls. f.b.i. agents get to pick where
they investigate. u.s. attorneys get to choose which cases they take. not local prosecutors. they take everything. every crime that is committed in the jurisdiction they have to go after. there may be concurrent federal jurisdiction and they may work with the federal government on a bank robbery or maybe on a murder where the body was moved across the state line. but i don't think most americans realize that for most crimes in this country the federal government doesn't even have jurisdiction. the federal government cannot prosecute a rape case anywhere except the district of columbia or a territory. that's all state and local prosecutors. so the most important part of this bill to someone who is deeply steeped in local prosecutions is the tool it gives our front line of law enforcement in this country. the people that answer the 911 calls, the people who respond to
the emergency room when the young 15-year-old girl wanders in like she did in st. louis saying she had been trafficked up and down the interstate and was coming in the emergency room for help. it wasn't the f.b.i. that responded. it would be the local police that responded to that emergency room to find out what the facts were and determine how to go forward. so this is a new tool in the toolbox of the front line of criminal prosecutions in this country, and i'm so proud to have been a part of it. i know that there are going to be some amendments offered. i'm confident they will be voted down. by the way, everyone wants to support more resources for this. so the notion that more resources is one of the amendments in an effort to try to amend the bill so it has to go back to the house is one of those jujitsu moves that we do around here, frankly, that's not always productive. of course we all support more resources for sex trafficking prosecutions and investigations, but we don't want to amend this bill right now because it's got to get to the president's desk
so we can get busy and get after this crime and do what we need to do in this country to hold people accountable who are profiting off the backs of people who sell children for sex. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor, and i thank my colleague, senator portman, for all of our work and cooperation on this issue. mr. portman: i thank my colleague senator mccaskill. she's absolutely right. we are grateful to the entire senate for jumping in on this because we would not have gotten to the bottom of this without getting the senate to decide for the first time in 21 years this question are we going to enforce a subpoena or not. people stepped up. and as a result we were able to be able to, through the court system, with the sanction of criminal liability as a possibility, to get these folks to come forward and provide this information. they never really testified. they came forward and they claimed their fifth amendment
rights, but at least we were able to get a million pages of documents. a million pages. and then we sifted through a million pages of documents to discover, lo and behold, these people actually knew what they were doing. in fact, they were altering ads. they'd get an ad from somebody selling an underage girl. the ad would say something like schoolgirl or cheerleader or young girl. they would then edit that ad to take out those words that would indicate what was going on, and they knew what was going on, and then they would place the ad anyway. in other words, they would make the money, make the profit knowing that they were selling an underage girl online. they also then were destroying the evidence that later law enforcement could use to go after these people. this is evil, and this has been happening. and we've heard the stories. i talked about yvonne ambrose. we talked about kubiiki pride. we talked about nicole jay.
we talked about some of these mothers and their daughters who have gone through this horrific situation. you heard earlier about desiree. this was the 16-year-old who was being sold on backpage and on christmas eve she was murdered. imagine getting that call as a parent. we've talked before about the testimony we received in the committee with regard to the 14-year-old girl who had gone missing. and kubiiki pride is her mom. kubiiki pride said she was missing for several weeks. someone told her why don't you check on backpage.com and she did. she found her daughter who had been missing for weeks. imagine the mixed emotions, the relief of finding her daughter but the horror of seeing explicit photographs of a 14-year-old be sold for sex. so she did what you would do as
a mom. she called backpage immediately and said i found my daughter on your website. she's 14 years old. thank you for taking down that ad and helping me connect with my daughter. the answer from backpage.com: you didn't pay for the ad. we won't take it down. again, talk about evil. and think of the heartbreak. and later when she was reunited with her daughter, she was one of those brave moms, and her daughter was one of those brave victims who said you know what, we're going to file a lawsuit and go public with this and talk about our experience and the trauma that this young 14-year-old girl had gone through, repeatedly raped by older men, and we're going to hold these websites accountable. but you know what happened? the court system said i'm sorry. under a federal law, federal law passed by this body, 21-year-old law, this website is not
culpable. they have a shield. they have an immunity. and that's why we're here today. that's why we're here today. justice cannot always be seen, but its absence is felt. and the absence of justice is exactly what we're trying to address here today. so you've heard from my colleagues, and i appreciate it, all four of them speaking up and talking about their experiences and how we got to this point. we may hear from a couple other colleagues later today who were part of helping us put together a sensible approach that targeted this activity. we have freedom of the internet on the one hand but on the other hand this activity shouldn't go on here in america at this time. this is where you see the increase in trafficking. you not only hear this from the experts who give us their data showing huge increases in trafficking reports, but you also hear it and feel it from the victims and the survivors who i've met with in cleveland and cincinnati and columbus and
dayton and akron. they tell me the same story, which is, you know, i was, i was sold online. it's very efficient. one nine-year-old girl was sold online by her father. i first met her when she was almost 20 years old and she finally escaped from the clutches of her own father. but think about that. backpage going from sporting event to sporting event around the country. backpage online, being sold many times on a single night with the efficiency of the internet. so this is legislation that is overdue, in my view. and it's required. the courts have told us that. the district attorneys have told us that. the attorneys general told us that. 50 of them wrote us a letter saying make this change. they have all said congress, step forward. if -- they have not just invited us to do it. they welcomed us to pass this legislation to give these
families the justice they deserve and to give our prosecutors the ability to go after them. one thing that i hope has been clear from the other comments we've heard today is that one of the important parts of this legislation is simply allowing these local prosecutors we've talked about earlier to be able to take these cases, using the federal standard, but take these cases rather than just relying on the department of justice. having said that, those million papers and all the documents we received -- and you can go online, the permanent subcommittee on investigations, p.s.i. -- we did ploy to the justice department. we did provide this to many of the around the country that were interested. we did provide it to others pursuing lawsuits. so they have information that they never had before but we also need to change this law and that's what we're about today. you heard from my colleagues about the amendments that are likely to be offered.
we're told there will be two amendments. the first amendment is one that is going to be called a moderating amendment, meaning that if somebody is on their website moderating the website, cleaning up the website, they should be given a good-faith exception. let me just be clear on this amendment. it is a poison pill, and it will make it easier for those sites that are involved in sex trafficking to continue to do so. right now under current law there is a good-faith exception. it is a good samaritan exception under current law. we actually restate in our legislation. to be actually cleaver, that if you're one of the good guys, a website online, it wants to be sure that your site is not going to have these girls sold online, that you should be protected. however, this legislation,
having restated the good samaritan provision, also says that if you're one of the bad actors, you don't have that protection. the first amendment that is going to be offered is including those protections for some of the bad actors. it purposely strips the good-faith element and i believe again it would assist online sex traffickers rather than hold them to account. if a backpage or other website filters for illegal content and learns that its platform is being used for illegal trafficking but ignores that, i would think this amendment says that evidence cannot be considered in a case against backpage. i think that's wrong. i hope that first amendment will be handled properly, which is to say we don't have not want to have a poison pill here. all the law enforcement community represented by their associations agrees with us as do the victims' groups as do the
groups who are concerned about the effect of trafficking girls and women and boys online, and see we're together on this with all the outside groups. the second amendment is going to be asking for additional department of justice resources specifically to combat online trafficking. now look, i support investigatininvestigatefunding . this amendment will be subject to a budget point of order because it's not going through the right process. the right process is the bill we'll be taking up i hope the day after tomorrow -- which would be the spending bill. in fact there are budget point of orders that the committee on budget here in the united states senate has found against this amendment. so again this is an amendment that is subject to point of poif order. every law enforcement group in
the country opposes the amendment. because as one law enforcement said, it is, quote, a poison pill that is dead on arrival if sent back to the house. so we got to be sure and defeat these amendments in order to have this legislation move forward. and i hope that my colleagues will all stick with us on that, as they have stuck with us through this process of getting the information, of coming up with the right legislation, of being sure that we have the opportunity to take it to the floor and get a clean vote, to get it to the president's desk, get it signed, and starting now in autumn can of weeks -- in a couple of weeks to be able to make a difference in the lives of the people we represent to stop the online trafficking that's occurring to provide justice to those who are victims and survivors and to ensure that indeed justice can be served. i see that one of my colleagues has joined us on the floor, and this is senator nelson i talked about earlier. he is the ranking democrat on the commerce committee that took this legislation, clarified some
points in the legislation to the point that by the time he was done with it -- and by the way he was a cosponsor of the legislation long before that, long before that. but by the time the commerce committee was done, clarifying the legislation, listening to the testimony from both sides, he received a unanimous vote in his committee. that doesn't happen very often, senator nelson. and i aappreciate your being on the floor today and appreciate your leadership on this issue. i yield time to him. mr. nelson: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from from l ifful. mr. nelson: i thank the senator from owe forehis gracious comments. and i just simply want to say my part as to why this is so important that we pass this legislation because it's very obvious that an untold number of women and children in the u.s. are being sold into sexual
slavery via the internet. and we now have an opportunity to do something about it by passing this legislation. and it's so bad because with just a few clicks or a few punches on an iphone, victims from all walks of life and parts of the country, all across, are being enforced -- are being forced into brutal slavery and unspeakable crimes. i want to repeat that. i want americans to understand what is going on behind the scenes, that women and children are being forced into sex slavery in modern-day america,
and could very well happen to someone that you know. you know, we have continuing stories of our history of how slavery brought to the new world had happened. first to arabia off the east coast of africa, and then of course the european nations let -- later in going down with ship captains, the portuguese actually ended up having the most of slaves transported to the new world, primarily to south america. but of course the english got into the act. most of the european nations got into the act of these unspeakable crimes of slave ships going down to the west coast of africa either enslaving
themselves, africans, or getting into agreement with a particular tribe that would then go out and capture members of an opposing tribe. and of course you've heard over and over the stories, untold stories of the unhumanity of stacking people -- inhumanity of stacking people bod body to body in the hulls of these slave ships. and it finally took a civil war to settle the issue. that was slavery. that was slavery that we opposed and now all of our laws try to protect against. but here in modern-day america the same thing is happening, and it's happening because of the advent, the advances of
technology now using the internet. and if this is not a wake-up call, i simply don't know what is. according to human trafficking to the hotline, just my state of florida has consistently ranked in the top five states in human trafficking cases. florida was third in the country for the number of cases reported in 2016 and 2017, and that's just what we know about. and so it's just unacceptable and it's wrong. tens of thousands of americans, predominantly women and childr children, are subjected to this horrific reality. and you can imagine the pain and
the suffering which they are subjected to. and no were unin the country should have to endure this kind of forced slavery. no child or woman in florida, in america should ever be trafficked for sex. and to even contemplate that should offend any person's sense of decency and humanity. and soy the question -- and so the question before the senate today, thanks with the leadership of a number of our colleagues, the question before the senate today is, why aren't we going to do everything that we can to stop this heinous practice? and so the bill that we are considering on the senate floor would help us shut down despicable websites that enable
this sex trafficking. don't kid yourself. these shady and she is highly profitable website operators know full well how their sites are being used. and what's more, they're hiding behind a decades' old legal shield to i am immunize themselves from -- to immunize themselves from prosecution. and we've got to change that legal shield that was set up a decade ago for a different purpose. and so the bill by senators portman, blumenthal, mccain, heitkamp, and myself -- and now many others -- would eliminate the safe harbor in law for sex traffickers, and it would allow state attorneys general, other
state and local prosecutors, and the victims themselves to go after the websites that knowingly provide a platform for sex trafficking. it would also make key changes to federal criminal law to enable law enforcement to better target the websites. so it's simple. that's the purpose of the legislation. let's get it passed out of here, get it signed into law, and let all of these various law enforcement entities be able to do their job. this legislation is an extensive product by our congressional colleagues on a bipartisan bas basis. it proves once again that what we ought to be doing around here on almost everything and yet we
rarely do -- it proves once again, if you cross partisan lines and put things together in a bipartisan way, that then you can tackle the important lifesaving issues such as this one. and we can get something done. let's show today that we can get something done. something that really makes a difference to americans. and so it's a privilege for me to be involved in a bipartisan way with this legislation and to have worked with our commerce committee to get a unanimous vote out of the committee. i hope that this legislation is going to serve as a wake-up call to the morally bankrupt website operators. we're coming after you. and it seems like every day we hear of new ways that these bad
actors are exploiting internet content and data to undermine society. obviously the internet has been magnificent for so many of us. but now when technology advances, you have to be on your guard about how new technology is used for the bad operators. this bill is going to address that. we can't sit by idly any longer. we've got to act today. madam president, i yield the floor. mr. mcconnell: madam president? the presiding officer: majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask
unanimous consent that at 1:45 p.m. today, senator wyden be recognized for up to 60 minutes to offer and debate concurrently his amendments number 2213 and 2212. that those be the only amendments in order and that following the use foraying back
of that time -- or yielding back of that time, the senate vote in relation to the amendments in the order listed with a 60-vote affirmative threshold required for adoption of each amendment. finally, that following disposition of these amendments, the bill be read a third time and the senate vote on passage of the bill as amended, if amended, without debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. mcconnell: so, madam president, i'm pleased to report that the appropriations package is currently being finalized. i will have more to say once the bill has been filed, but i'm proud to announce it will meet a number of vitally important objectives. this includes the largest year on-year increase in funding for our service members in 15 years. along with major steps forward for law enforcement and border security, for the fight against opioid addiction, for our veterans, and for a number of
other priorities. but before we take up that measure, the senate has a very important piece of business to tackle. this afternoon, we'll vote on the antisex trafficking legislation we have been considering this week. i want to thank senator portman who has worked hard to advance this reform, chairman thune for shepherding it through the commerce committee. many of us have paid careful attention to the scourge of child trafficking over the years. it's been a high-priority issue for me, for example, since before i arrived in the senate, but as traffickers move their crimes from the street corner to the smartphone, the data tell us unambiguously that more action is required. the legislation before us reforms a misused provision in a 1996 telecommunications act which currently shields companies that facilitate and profit from the disgusting exploitation of women and children. later today, my colleagues will have the opportunity to
implement commonsense reform with the potential to change vulnerable children's lives for the better. i urge every one of us to vote to pass it. now, on a final matter, madam president, we have been talking for months about the ways tax reform is helping to jump-start the economy, bolster family budgets, and make life better for millions of americans. just a few months in, many such stories have already made front-page news. the tax reform bonuses, raises, and benefits for four million workers and counting. the new investments and new hiring for businesses large and small. the bigger paychecks for middle-class americans as the i.r.s. withholds less of their money. but other exciting parts of this once in a generation reform aren't receiving the attention they deserve. today, for example, is an initial deadline for states to nominate areas they would like to be designated as opportunity
zones. this is thanks to a provision incorporated into the tax reform through the unflagging dedication of our colleague, senator scott. the premise here is simple. the best way to breathe new life into struggling communities is not to invent some new federal program. it isn't to throw government money into one more top-down tax and spend scheme. no, the best way to help rural areas, small cities and suburbs left behind by the obama era policies is to get the government's foot off the brake and let the free enterprise system flourish. it's to make those communities attractive to open business, create new facilities, and create good-paying jobs. this is exactly what tax reform does. by deferring capital gains taxes on income that's invested in distressed areas that receive this opportunity zone designation. as one estimate has it, three-quarters of all the jobs
created from 2010 to 2016 went to major metropolitan areas. only 3%, 3%, madam president, went to rural america. this provision could help change that. i know there is a lot of excitement in my state of kentucky from coal country to farming communities and everywhere in between. obama-era overregulation was holding our economy short of its full potential. these opportunity zones offer a shot at real relief. according to our cabinet for economic development, kentucky may designate as many as 144 new zones, prioritizing growth in areas that need it most. or take west virginia. as my friend, senator capito, recently noted, her state understands the problem all too well. one recent study suggested that west virginia has the third highest proportion of its population living in economically distressed communities.
opportunity zones will make a difference to her state. of course so will the rest of tax reform. a few weeks back, senator capito reported that worldwide equipment in west sulfur springs plans to reinvest $8 billion into its operation, including more than a thousand employee bonuses, all thanks to tax reform. i imagine west virginians are quite glad that senator capito used her vote to make tax reform a reality. it's a shame their senior senator didn't follow suit. it's a shame he and every other democrat tried to block him from taking effect. fortunately, this president and this congress didn't let that stop us. we accomplished tax reform anyway because we're committed to fighting for all americans.
i think we all know that there are many, many reasons why we need to deter the use of internet resources by predators. the wisdom of this is pretty apparent on its face. this legislation is for the protection of our children, the most vulnerable among us. but i have an additional reason for urging the adoption of this legislation, and that's the protection of native women, the protection of native women and girls from predators. i have been talking about the trafficking of native women and girls for -- for as long as i have been here in the senate, now some 15 years. at first, the evidence was perhaps anecdotal. we had f.b.i. agents that were familiar with trafficking patterns. they would come to us and they would say that alaska native women were highly desirable commodity -- just even using
that terminology, it's just so offensive, but that's how they were viewed, was a desirable commodity for sex trafficking because they could be trafficked either as -- as white women or as asian women. there is a body of evidence that when many alaska native women or girls left their villages to come into town, to come to the city, that they would -- they would literally be stalked by predators waiting to recruit them. we certainly see the prevalence of sex trafficking in covenant house, which is our youth homeless shelter. we have reports that one in four homeless youth in anchorage are victims of sex trafficking. 42% of them are alaska native. and as i have been here in the
senate over these years, the way that -- that these women and girls have been recruited, have been trafficked has changed. no longer do you -- do you have the predators that are kind of lurking in the corners, hanging out on the street corners. it is -- it's the internet. again, it's this powerful tool that is available to do so much good that is now being used for -- for a predatory purpose. and while we don't have the internet coverage in alaska that you have in the big cities of the lower 48, it is used, the internet is used to recruit girls for sex trafficking all over. i certainly had that confirmed in my last visit when i met with the f.b.i. agents in charge in anchorage. it wasn't too many weeks ago, the senator from north dakota and i came to the floor to talk
about the urgency of addressing the growing number of missing and murdered native women in america. senator heitkamp characterizes the problem as epidemic, and i agree with her. i do think it is an epidemic. native women are victims of violence in unprecedentprecedend proportions. not all of these victims are trafficked, but some are trafficked, and then they go missing, and when their services are no longer needed or they find themselves controlled by a particularly violent predator, they never become unmissing. until their bodies may be coincidentally found, at which point they are finally regarded as murdered, gone. and i say today that there is an urgency to keep native women and girls away from predators, and while turning off the internet on ramp to recruitment may not completely solve the problem, it is a worthy effort in its own
right. it is one tool that we need to ratchet that. we hear from the sponsor of this bill and from so many that enough is enough. it is no longer tolerable. it's time that we attack the problem of sex trafficking at the source, and that means doing all that we can, all that we can to make the internet a very inhospitable place for the sex trafficker and those who enable the immoral and the disgusting trade in our fellow human beings. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. president, i have ten requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they do have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. ms. murkowski: mr. president, i yield the floor.
mrs. fischer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. mrs. fischer: mr. president, i rise today to discuss h.r. 1865, the antihuman trafficking legislation currently being considered here on the senate floor. human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world. more than 20 million people in our nation and around the globe are affected by this modern-day form of slavery. the criminals who carry out these heinous acts often go after the vulnerable, such as young people who have run away from home, or victims of domestic violence. women and girls are disproportionately affected, according to the international labor organization, 55% of total victims worldwide are women and girls. tragically, children are frequently targeted. the perpetrators trap their victims in unconscionable and violent situations, forcing them to commit sexual acts against their will.
this practice occurs in nearly every area code. it's happening closer to home than we even realize. a report published by creighton university and the women's fund of omaha found there are 900 individuals for sale online every month in nebraska. almost all of them female. our government has a responsibility to stand up and do something to protect women and children from exploitation. fighting the horrific scourge of human trafficking is priority for me, and it's a priority for the united states senate. in 2015, we passed the justice for victims trafficking act, and it was signed into law. i was proud to be a cosponsor of that legislation. the bill set up a deficit-neutral fund to support trafficking victims. through enhanced reporting and mechanisms to reduce demand, this law provides care for victims of trafficking and child
pornography. importantly, the bill also protects victims in court by treating traffickers as violent criminals. labeling traffickers in this way means that convicts can now be detained while awaiting judicial proceedings. the justice for victims trafficking act represents a strong effort by congress to stand against human trafficking. mr. president, i am proud that at home, nebraskans also are rallying together and taking action to stop human trafficking. this past january, nebraska attorney general doug peterson launched demand and end, a public awareness campaign to stop child sex trafficking. this campaign aims to build on the momentum from legislative bill 289 passed by the nebraska unicameral with significantly heightened penalties for those perpti